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Walleye shut out Cyclones to force Game 7

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye needed a win to keep their season alive and delivered with a 3-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Cyclones in front of a Huntington Center hockey record 8,592 fans on Saturday night.

John Albert put the Walleye on the board late in the first period, and Toledo never looked back, using a two-goal third period and a perfect 18-save performance from Billy Christopoulos to tie the Central Division Semifinals at three games each. The win helped the Fish force Game 7, which will take place at the Huntington Center on Tuesday night.

The Walleye and Cyclones started the game with a physical, fast-paced opening period. The Walleye took 11 shots in the first frame while the Cyclones added nine. 

Toledo and Cincinnati each took the man advantage early in the contest, starting with the Cyclones at 5:23 after a Mitchell Heard elbowing penalty. With 6:03 gone, Wyatt Ege picked up a tripping call to usher in 1:20 of 4-on-4 hockey. The Walleye then went on the power play for 40 seconds before the Cyclones returned to full strength at 8:03.

With 15:38 gone in the period, Dominic Franco went to the penalty box for cross-checking, putting Toledo on the power play for the second time. Just ten seconds later, John Albert put the Walleye on the board, finding the back of the net from the right side of the net to give the Walleye the 1-0 lead. TJ Hensick and Randy Gazzola assisted as Albert tallied his fourth goal of the playoffs.

The Walleye followed a strong offensive first period with a 20-shot outburst in the second, driven by three power plays in the period. The Fish found themselves on the man advantage just 1:12 into the period after a Dominic Franco hooking minor and again at 6:58 on Graeme Brown’s holding penalty. The Cyclones came away unblemished with two penalty kills to keep the score 1-0.

Zack Andrusiak collected the third Cincinnati penalty with a delay of game with 13:48 gone to put the Walleye on their fifth power play of the game. That power play lasted nearly a minute before Matt Berry was called for hooking. The Walleye returned to full strength with 16:47 gone and kept the 1-0 lead through the remainder of the second period. Cincinnati took just six shots in the frame.

The Walleye stifled the Cyclones in the third frame, allowing just three shots on net while taking 13 of their own. Toledo added two more goals to the board in the middle of the frame, starting with Brett McKenzie at the 9:42 mark. McKenzie received a pass at center rink from Brandon Hawkins to increase the lead to two, while TJ Hensick added a secondary assist. 

With 13:10 gone, Randy Gazzola set up another scoring play, stealing the puck from the Cyclones near the red line and passing across to Hensick at the blue line. Hensick found the back of the net to add a third goal to his playoff total, giving the Fish the 3-0 advantage.

The final minutes of the contest saw a skirmish between Zack Andrusiak and Ryan Lowney, where both players were handed double minors for roughing, followed by a brawl involving Cole Fraser and Brett Boeing from Toledo and Lukas Craggs and Matthew Cairns from Cincinnati. The Walleye held Cincinnati scoreless for the remainder of regulation to earn a 3-0 shutout win and force Game 7.

The Walleye dominating in shots on goal with 44 to Cincinnati’s 18. The Walleye scored the lone power play goal of the game in the first period, taking the man advantage six times while the Cyclones went on the power play four times.

Billy Christopoulos earned the shutout win in net for the Walleye with 18 saves. Michael Houser took the loss for the Cyclones, saving 41-of-44 shots.

What’s Next:

The Walleye and Cyclones will have two days off before returning to the ice for a decisive Game 7 matchup in Toledo. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:35 p.m.

Three Stars: 

  1. Toledo – TJ Hensick (game-winning goal, two assists)
  2. Toledo – John Albert (power play goal)
  3. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, shutout, 18 saves)