WHEELING, W. Va. – Another electrifying second-period performance helped lead the Toledo Walleye to their fourth win in five games, as they held off the Wheeling Nailers by a 5-4 count on Sunday at WesBanco Arena.
Less than 24 hours after tallying five second-period goals in a victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Reading Royals, the Walleye (11-6-1-0) posted a four-spot in the middle frame before Mike Moffat netted what proved to be the game-winner with 13:45 left in regulation. In all, Toledo has recorded 25 goals in its last five outings, and scored four or more times in a single game for the 11th time this season.
Wheeling (8-8-4-0) started the scoring with 3:42 gone in the opening period. Billy Christopoulos got most of Justin Almeida’s wrister from the high slot, but the puck trickled between the Toledo netminder’s right arm and body to give the Nailers an early edge. The hosts appeared to double their lead at the 14:53 mark, but a brief video review confirmed that Ryan Scarfo used his right skate to kick the puck inside the right post.
Josh Kestner pulled Toledo even with his eighth goal of the season 3:23 into the second stanza. Shane Berschbach chipped the puck ahead to Tyler Spezia, who sent a pass from the lower part of the left circle through the goal mouth that set up Kestner on a one-timer into an open cage.
Spezia then proceeded to find the net twice in a 19-second span to make it a 3-1 contest. Freddy Gerard’s initial wrist shot from the top of the left circle was pushed aside by Alex D’Orio, but the Ohio State product picked up his first professional point when Spezia slammed home the rebound at the 7:52 mark. One shift later, Spezia skated into the slot and guided a shot past D’Orio’s left pad, which prompted Wheeling to burn its timeout.
The Nailers closed the gap to 3-2 at 13:47 when Yushiroh Hirano’s wrist shot deflected high into the air and bounced off the back of Chrstopoulos’ mask and in, though Cam Brown was assessed a minor penalty for charging into the goaltender on the play. The Walleye restored their two-goal advantage on the ensuing power play, as Berschbach’s high wrist shot created a rebound that Brett Boeing jabbed past D’Orio at the 15:34 mark.
Moffat added Toledo’s fifth goal with a sharp wirst shot from the right circle, taking a rinkwide pass from T.J. Hensick and unloading a effort through traffic and betwen the pads of D’Orio at the 6:15 mark of the third.
Wheeling made things interesting for the sparse crowd, as Nick Minerva and Willy Smith scored 57 seconds apart to trim the deficit to 5-4, causing head coach Dan Watson to use his timeout with 11:30 left in regulation. However, the Nailers hit one crossbar and could not cash in on a litany of late chances as the Walleye held on to close out a stretch of three-games-in-three-days on a winning note.
Toledo finished 1-for-2 on the power play, and did not surrender a single penalty in the contest. Christopolous turned away 28-of-32 shots to earn his second victory in as many nights, while D’Orio stopped 29-of-34 in defeat.
What’s Next:The Walleye will start a three-game home stand on Wednesday morning as they battle the Adirondack Thunder. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is scheduled for 10:35 a.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Tyler Spezia (two goals, assist)2. Wheeling – Justin Almeida (goal, assist)3. Toledo – Steven Oleksy (two assists)