TOLEDO, Ohio – Behind back-to-back Gordie Howe hat tricks, Bryan Moore earned first-star honors for the second straight contest as the Toledo Walleye held off the Wheeling Nailers 3-2 on Saturday before a capacity crowd of 8,064 at the Huntington Center.
Winners in four straight on home ice, the Walleye (35-18-5-3) improved to 8-2 during their franchise-record 10-game sellout streak. The result also marks the first time either team has won in their own building in seven meetings this season, as Toledo and Wheeling (28-27-6-2) have each rattled off three road victories in head-to-head play.
The Walleye controversially grabbed a 1-0 lead 6:02 into the opening period. Intercepting an errant pass at the Wheeling blue line, Dylan Sadowy gained the zone and fired a wrist shot that was ruled by referee Sean Fernandez to have gone narrowly inside the left post before hitting the right post and coming to rest behind Matt O’Connor. A lengthy review showed no conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the ice as Sadowy became the first Toledo skater this season to reach the 20-goal mark.
Wheeling eventually pulled even with 5:28 to go in the first frame. Pat Nagle blocked Alec Butcher’s attempt from near the top of the left circle, but Renars Krastenbergs was alone in front to whack the rebound into an open cage.
Toledo seized a 3-1 advantage with a pair of goals early in the second period. At the 42-second mark, Kevin Tansey’s centering pass pinballed off the right skate of Shane Berschbach and directly to A.J. Jenks at the hash marks for an impromptu tic-tac-toe sequence to put the hosts in front.
Michael Phillips lost control of the puck in his own zone moments later, allowing Moore to gain possession at the right circle and flip a backhanded shot past O’Connor’s blocker at 4:18, which in turn prompted the Nailers to burn their timeout.
Wheeling made it a one-goal game with 1:32 to go in the second when Dan Fick sent a wrister from the right point through a screen and off the underside of Toledo's crossbar.Moore, who was credited with the lone assist on Sadowy’s goal, completed his second consecutive Gordie Howe hat trick when he dropped the gloves against Cedric Lacroix with 32 seconds remaining in the same stanza.Nagle turned away all nine shots he faced during the third period, stopping 27-of-29 overall for his 20th win of the campaign. O'Connor blocked 31-of-34 in a losing cause.
Toledo finished 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, but was unable to convert on six power play opportunities.
What’s Next:The Walleye travel to West Michigan on Sunday for a St. Patrick’s Day clash against the Kalamazoo Wings. Puck drop from Wings Event Center is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Bryan Moore (goal, assist)2. Toledo – A.J. Jenks (goal)3. Toledo – Dylan Sadowy (goal)