WHEELING, W. Va. – The Toledo Walleye bounced back in a big way with three shorthanded goals on Sunday, including two as part of a five-goal third period in an 8-1 thrashing of the Wheeling Nailers at WesBanco Arena.
A balanced attack propelled the Walleye (20-10-3-0) back into the win column to close out a three-games-in-three-days stretch, as 14 out of 15 skaters recorded at least one point. Troy Loggins scored two even-strength during the final frame to earn first-star honors, while T.J. Hensick and Brandon Anselmini each dished out a pair of helpers.
The Walleye, who entered the contest with three shorthanded goals all season, improve to 5-1 against Wheeling (16-14-4-0) in the regular-season series. Additionally, Toledo showed eight or more goals for the third time this season and second time in a six-day span, having accomplished the feat in an 8-4 victory at Fort Wayne on New Year’s Eve.
The Walleye showed no ill effects from the previous night’s defeat on home ice, as they began their first road game of 2020 with a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Toledo outshot Wheeling 7-0 to begin the contest, the last of which resulted in Kyle Bonis’ fourth goal of the season. Charle-Edouard D’Astous faked a shot from the left point and sent a slap pass to Hensick below the left goalline, before the latter set up Bonis at the left circle for a wrist shot past Emil Larmi’s blocker at 8:07.
Moments removed from serving a holding minor, Mark Auk doubled Toledo’s advantage 14:24 into the opening frame. After Brenden Kotyk let a shot go from the right point that bounced off the catching glove of Larmi, Auk gathered the rebound on his backhand and flipped a shot through the five-hole.
Josh Kestner potted the visitors’ first shorthanded goal of the night one period later. He stickhandled his way past two Wheeling defenders at the left circle and drove towards the net, where he shifted to the forehand and slid a shot underneath Larmi at 10:43 for his team-best 17th goal of the campaign.
With both teams skating at even numbers, Wheeling got on the scoresheet 1:36 later when Alec Butcher wristed his breakaway attempt into the top left corner.
Still ahead by a 3-1 count to begin the third period, the Walleye scored twice on the same penalty kill to open up a four-goal cushion. Marcus Vela won a face-off at the left circle that set up Justin Buzzeo near the high slot for a one-timer into the top right corner to make it 4-1 with 16:42 left in regulation.
Toledo then added another shorthanded marker just 51 seconds later to open up a commanding 5-1 lead. Anselmini’s stretch pass got behind the Wheeling defense and reached Josh Winquist, who was all alone i the offensive end and had two chances to guide the puck between Larmi’s pads.
Loggins notched the visitors' sixth goal with 12:28 on the clock, as he uncorked a slapshot that whizzed into the top right corner. Immediately after the goal, the Walleye were gifted a power play chance when Larmi was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for shooting the puck the length of the ice and subsequently replaced in net by Alex D'Orio. Kevin Spinozzi did the heavy lifting on the ensing man advantage, gaining the zone and the right wing during a 2-on-1 and wiring a shot into the top left corner to make it a 7-1 game with 10:42 remaining.
Loggins saved Toledo's best goal for last, scoring exactly three minutes after his first . After Branden Troock chipped the puck toward Loggins in the slot, the Northern Michigan product put his stick between his legs as he lifted a shot that hopped off D’Orio’s catching glove and narrowly over the line with 9:28 to go.
Toledo finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Wheeling failed to score on four opportunities. Billy Christopoulos stopped 26-of-27 shots to improve to 11-1-2 in 14 career ECHL appearances. Meanwhile, Larmi blocked 28-of-34 shots one night after serving as the Pittsburgh Penguins' backup goaltender in Montreal, while D’Orio stopped half of the four shots he faced in 12:28 of relief.
What’s Next:The Walleye will return to the Huntington Center for three home games this weekend, beginning on Friday and Saturday with a pair of 7:15 p.m. matchups against the Indy Fuel.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Troy Loggins (two goals)2. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 26 saves)3. Toledo – Mark Auk (game-winning goal)