FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Toledo Walleye wrapped up a memorable 2019 in style on Tuesday, as newly minted Inglasco/ECHL Player of the Week Shane Berschbach recorded his second consecutive hat trick in an 8-4 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets at the Memorial Coliseum.
Berschbach, who was honored by the league after notching five points (3-2-5) in his previous two games, was among a half-dozen Walleye (18-9-3-0) skaters to notch multi-point efforts. Kyle Bonis tallied a power play goal as part of a team-high four-point (1-3-4) performance, while Justin Buzzeo registered two goals and an assist. From there, T.J. Hensick showed a goal and two helpers, while Steven Oleksy and Josh Kestner each contributed two assists.Toledo heads into the New Year with at least a point in eight of its last nine games (6-1-2), while Fort Wayne (15-12-5-0) is winless in eight straight contests (0-5-3). The Walleye have also won each of their four meetings this season against the Komets.
The Walleye grabbed the lead on their first shot of the night, as Hensick’s eighth goal of the season capped an odd-man rush 1:39 into the opening period. Bonis gained the zone on a 2-on-1 and feathered a pass from the left circle toward the slot to Hensick for a one-timer off that got a big piece of Cole Kehler’s stick before going in.
Gage Torrel restored parity for the Komets with a shot from the right half-boards at the 12:10 mark, but Toledo jumped back in front moments later. After taking a pass from Kestner at the lower part of the right circle and circling all the way to the point, Berschbach continued to hold the puck as he skated down the left wing and behind the Fort Wayne net to bury a successful wraparound try before Kehler could get across with the left pad.
The Walleye then extended the lead to 3-1 just 49 seconds later. Troy Loggins gained the Fort Wayne line and skated into the high slot, where he shifted back to his forehand and lifted a wrist shot into the top right corner.
The Komets replaced Kehler with Dylan Ferguson between the pipes to begin the second period, but the Walleye added a fourth goal 1:10 into the frame. Although his one-timer in the high slot was blocked by the new netminder's left pad, Buzzeo collected his own rebound in front and guided the puck into an open net.
Fort Wayne sliced the lead to 4-2 with a shorthanded goal at the 4:38 mark. As both sides were finishing their respective line changes, Charle Edouard D’Astous tried to advance with the puck near his own net, but Shawn Szydlowski quickly poked it between the pads of Billy Christopoulos.
The flurry of goals continued later in the middle period, as Bonis answered with a power play goal at 16:25. Hensick received a pass behind the Fort Wayne net and sent a diagonal pass through the crease to Bonis at the riht circle for a one-timer past a sprawling Ferguson. Shaquille Merasty responded for the Komets 45 ticks later to make it a 5-3 game heading into the second intermission.
Berschbach scored his second goal of the night 2:47 into the final frame, as he pushed the lead to 6-3 with a slapshot from the left circle that went along the ice and underneath Ferguson’s left pad. As the latest edition of this rivalry became increasingly chippy, Torrel got the hosts back within two at the 8:49 mark.
The Walleye went on to put the game beyond any doubt with a pair of insurance markers. Marcus Vela unselfishly slid the puck toward the right circle to Berschbach, allowing the latter to complete his hat trick with 2:58 remaining in the third. With Ferguson back on the bench for the extra skater, Buzzeo wrapped up the scoring on a 2-on-1 when he gained the zone and chipped his second goal of the game into a vacated net with 1:48 to play.
Toledo finished 2-for-6 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill as the squads combined for 23 infractions and 52 penalty minutes. Making his ninth consecutive start, Christopoulos blocked 32-of-36 shots, while Kehler turned away 5-of-8 during the opening period before Ferguson took over and stopped 15-of-19 in a losing cause. What's Next:The Walleye will return to the Huntington Center on Friday and Saturday to battle the Kalamazoo Wings and Indy Fuel, respectively. Both games are set to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Shane Berschbach (hat trick)2. Toledo – Kyle Bonis (game-winning power play goal, three assists)3. Toledo – T.J. Hensick (goal, two assists)