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Vela nets first professional hat trick as Walleye topple Royals

Sunday, December 1st
Vela nets first professional hat trick as Walleye topple Royals

READING, Pa.Marcus Vela recorded his first professional hat trick as the Toledo Walleye scored five goals during the second period in a 7-4 victory over the Reading Royals on Saturday at Santander Arena.

Vela, who now shows seven goals in his first eight games with the Walleye (10-6-1-0), was among six Toledo skaters to notch multiple points as he bookended his three-goal performance with a pair of power play markers. Josh Winquist and Tyler Spezia each added a goal and an assist, while Shane Berschbach, T.J. Hensick and Abbott Girduckis all dished out a pair of helpers. Meanwhile, rookie goaltender Billy Christopulos picked up the win and third-star accolades in his club debut on the strength of a career-high 40 saves, marking his first pro appearance since backstopping South Carolina to a 5-2 triumph versus Norfolk on Nov. 17.

The Walleye seized the momentum in the early minutes and opened the scoring 4:16 into the contest. Berschbach led an odd-man rush into the Reading (13-5-3-0) zone and chipped a pass across to Winquist at the left circle for a one-timer into the top left corner, giving the latter his third goal in as many games

Toledo opened up a 2-0 lead with a power play goal later in the frame. After Hensick attempted to split the Reading defense, he spun around at the lower part of the left circle and centered a pass to Vela at the right circle for a one-timer underneath the left pad of Felix Sandstrom at the 14:40 mark. However, Reading trimmed the lead to 2-1 just 51 seconds later when Frank DiChiara lifted home a rebound from the lower edge of the right circle.

The Walleye regained their two-goal advantage with 3:18 gone in the second period. Shortly after Brayden Low ripped a shot hit off the crossbar, Spezia caught the Royals on a line change and jump-started an odd-man rush, setting up Vela in the high slot for a wrister over Sandstrom’s outstretched catching glove.

Reading got back within a goal when Thomas Ebbing got his stick on Garrett Cockerill’s attempt from the right wall at 7:38, but the Walleye pulled away for good with four unanswered goals in a 4:36 span. Josh Kestner added a power play tally when he took Berschbach’s rinkwide feed at the left circle and fired a one-timer over a sprawling Sandstrom at the 13:57 mark. Vela completed his hat trick moments later on another man advantage when he jammed his own rebound through the five-hole to make it 5-2 at 16:42, prompting the Royals to replace Sandstrom in favor of Kirill Ustimenko.

The Walleye put more distance between themselves and the Eastern Conference leaders, netting a couple of even-strength goals prior to the second intermission. Brett Boeing danced around a check before wristing a breakaway attempt past Ustimenko’s catching glove at 17:39, before Spezia toedragged his way into the slot and snapped his second effort between the pads 53 ticks later to give the visitors a comfortable 7-2 scoreline.Luke Stork contributed two consolation goals for Reading during a fight-filled third period, finding the back of the net at 5:57 and 18:24, respectively. In total, the two teams combined for 12 infractions and 58 penalty minutes in the final frame.

Toledo finished 3-for-5 on the power play, while Reading scored on one of its four opportunities. Sandstrom stopped 18-of-23 shots in a losing cause, while Ustimenko stopped 9-of-11 in relief one night after claiming first-star honors with a 39-save display.

What’s Next:The Walleye close out their three-games-in-three-days road trip on Sunday with a matchup against the Wheeling Nailers. Puck drop from WesBanco Arena is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.

Three Stars:1. Toledo – Marcus Vela (hat trick)2. Toledo – Tyler Spezia (goal, assist)3. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 40 saves) 

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