WHEELING, W. Va. – The highly-anticipated return of Kyle Bonis to the Toledo Walleye lineup was spoiled by Wheeling Nailers goaltender Emil Larmi, who turned away all 26 shots he faced in his ECHL debut to backstop the hosts to a 3-0 result on Friday at WesBanco Arena.
Alec Butcher’s power play marker put Wheeling (13-10-4-0) in front with 3:10 remaining in the second period, before Christopher Brown scored twice during the final frame to hand Billy Christopoulos his first regulation loss in eight career ECHL appearances (6-1-1). For his part, Christopoulos blocked 29-of-32 shots for the Walleye (15-9-2-0), including each of the 16 that came his way in a scoreless opening period.
The Walleye withstood a stretch of 12 consecutive Wheeling shots to end the first period, but the Nailers eventually broke through on the power play late in the middle stanza. After Ryan Scarfo won a faceoff in his own zone, Blake Siebenaler rushed into neutral ice and sent a lead pass to Butcher, who danced around Brandon Anselmini’s attempted pokecheck before entering the slot and placing a wrister into the top right corner at the 16:50 mark.
Wheeling went on to double its advantage with 8:43 gone in the third period. After T.J. Hensick’s wrist shot from the edge of the right circle was blocked by Cam Brown, his unrelated linemate gathered the puck and raced all the way into the Toledo zone, where he slapped a shot from the right circle into the top right corner.
Brown then notched his second goal of the night to pad the Nailers’ lead with 4:25 left in the third. Steve Oleksy’s pass at center ice was broken up by Marc-Olivier Duquette, which helped set up Brown as the latter gained into the Toledo zone and fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that sailed into the top right corner.
In all, Wheeling finished 1-for-3 on the man advantage, while Toledo did not find the net on its sole power play opportunity.
What’s Next:The Walleye will look to turn the page on Saturday with a road matchup against the Indy Fuel. Puck drop from the Indiana Farmers Coliseum is set for 6:05 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Wheeling – Emil Larmi (SO, 26 saves)2. Wheeling – Christopher Brown (two goals)3. Wheeling – Alec Butcher (game-winning power play goal)