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Topping's hat trick powers Walleye past Nailers

Saturday, April 6th
Topping's hat trick powers Walleye past Nailers

WHEELING, W. Va.Jordan Topping recorded his first professional hat trick as the Toledo Walleye earned a 5-3 victory over the Wheeling Nailers on Friday at WesBanco Arena.

Trailing 2-1 with fewer than nine minutes left in the middle period, the Walleye  (39-22-6-3) rattled off four unanswered goals to mathematically eliminate the Nailers (31-30-6-3) from qualifying for the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club. In all, Toledo won each of its four visits to WesBanco Arena this season and finished 5-3 against Wheeling in head-to-head play.

Topping became the first Toledo skater to score three goals in a single game since Dylan Sadowy accomplished the feat on Feb. 17 versus Kalamazoo, while Randy Gazzola and Bryan Moore both tallied a pair of assists. Making his third consecutive start between the pipes, Trevor Gorsuch stopped 33-of-36 shots to improve his record to 2-1, while former Walleye netminder Jordan Ruby steered aside 33-of-38 in a losing cause. 

The Walleye broke the deadlock 7:36 into the contest. After circling behind the Wheeling net, Tyler Spezia found Topping at the left edge of the right circle for a wrist shot that whizzed past Ruby’s catching glove.

Kevin Spinozzi answered for the Nailers near the halfway point of the frame. Gorsuch got a piece of his glove on Spinozzi’s effort, but the puck hopped over his left shoulder to knot the score at 1-1.

Renars Krastenbergs put the hosts in front with 11:15 gone in the second, but the Walleye recaptured the lead on back-to-back shots 18 seconds apart. On the power play, Gazzola’s slapshot from the point was blocked in the high slot by Topping, who moved to the backhand and batted a bouncing puck inside the right post for his second of the night at the 12:55 mark. Mike Moffat then held in a clearing attempt at the left point, skated to the near corner, and centered a pass toward the slot was one-timed by Hunter Smith into the top right corner to give the Walleye a 3-2 edge heading into the second intermission. 

David Pope doubled Toledo’s lead on the man advantage 44 ticks into the final period, picking up his first goal in a Walleye uniform when his wrist shot from the top of the right circle deflected off Dan Fick’s right skate and between the pads of Ruby.

Entering play with a pair of two-goal outings, Topping completed his first pro hat trick with 12:44 left in regulation. The 21-year-old rookie spun way from Krastenbergs at the left half-wall before driving the net and flipping a backhanded shot into the top right corner for his 17th goal of the campaign. 

With their playoff hopes increasingly bleak, the Nailers elected to pull Ruby with 7:23 remaining, and eventually capitalized on a 6-on-5 advantage in skaters as Winston Day Chief potted a consolation goal with 4:03 to play.

Toledo finished 2-for-5 on the power play, while Wheeling failed to score on two opportunities.

What’s Next:The Walleye return to the Huntington Center on Saturday for a 7:15 p.m. puck drop against the Brampton Beast. It will mark Toledo’s last home date until Games 1 and 2 of the Central Division Semifinals, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 12-13 against either Fort Wayne or Kalamazoo.

Three Stars:1. Toledo – Jordan Topping (hat trick)2. Toledo – Randy Gazzola (two assists)3. Wheeling – Winston Day Chief (goal) 

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