FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Three-point nights from Abbott Girduckis and T.J. Hensick propelled the Toledo Walleye to their 400th regular season win in franchise history with a decisive 6-2 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets on Friday at the Memorial Coliseum.
Girduckis tallied a pair of 5-on-3 power play goals along with an assist to earn first-star honors, while Hensick also recorded two goals and a helper. Shane Berschbach was the third Walleye (8-5-1-0) skater to show multiple points, logging the primary assist on both of Girduckis’ power play markers as Toledo snapped a three-game slide and improved to 3-0 this season against Fort Wayne (8-6-2-0)
The Walleye outshot the Komets by a 6-1 margin to begin the contest, and eventually grabbed the lead 14:12 into the opening frame. Although Hensick used his right skate to redirect Girduckis’ centering pass wide of the Fort Wayne net, the Toledo captain took his own carom off the end boards and sent a shot from behind the goalline that rookie goaltender Dylan Ferguson pushed into his own cage.
Josh Kestner cashed in barely two minutes later to make it a 2-0 game. Ferguson blocked Mike Moffat’s breakaway attempt with his right pad as the latter moved from backhand to forehand, but Kestner rushed into the crease to lift the rebound into an open net.
The Komets made their mark on the scoresheet as the Central Division rivals skated 4-on-4 during the second stanza. While the Walleye bench protested that the hosts appeared to have an extra skater on the ice after Brett McKenzie took a puck to the face in the Toledo zone, Shawn St-Amant guided a breakway effort between Pat Nagle’s pads at the 5:17 mark.
Still ahead 2-1 later in the frame, the Walleye called a timeout as they looked to capitalize on a 5-on-3 lasting 1:47. The visitors proceeded to restore their two-goal cushion, as Hensick sent a rinkwide pass through the slot to Berschbach, who quickly set up Girduckis at the back door for a tap-in at 11:18.
A slew of penalties during the final minute of the second period handed the Walleye another two-man advantage just 10 seconds into the final frame. Brandon Anselmini and Berschbach combined to set up Girduckis at the 1:02 mark for his second power play goal of the night and team-leading ninth goal of the campaign.
Alan Lyszczarczyk closed the gap to 4-2 when he moved to the backhand and lifted a breakaway attempt into the top right corner with 9:40 left in regulation, but the Walleye padded their lead with a couple insurance goals. Hensick won the race to a clearing attempt and buried an empty-netter with 1:49 remaining, before Tyler Spezia scored Toledo’s sixth goal at even strength 45 seconds later.
Toledo finished 2-for-5 on the power play, whie Fort Wayne failed to score on a half-dozen opportunities. Nagle blocked 31-of-33 shots in a winning cause, as Ferguson stopped 12-of-14 through the opening 20 minutes before Cole Kehler turned away 22-of-25 in two periods of relief.
What’s Next:The Walleye return to the Huntington Center on Saturday to face the Kalamazoo Wings in ‘Hockey Fights Cancer Night’ presented by ProMedica Cancer Institute. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo - Abbott Girduckis (two power play goals, assist)2 Toledo - T.J. Hensick (two goals, assist)3. Toledo - Josh Kestner (goal)