TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye scored twice within a 25-second span in the third period as they fended off the Fort Wayne Komets 4-3 on Saturday before a sold-out crowd of 8,300 at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye (23-12-3-1), who have won each of their six head-to-head meetings against Fort Wayne (20-15-5-1) this season, broke a 2-2 deadlock courtesy of Josh Kestner’s team-best 20th goal of the season with 7:08 left in regulation. After gaining the zone on the left wing, Shane Berschbach delivered a pass from the edge of the left circle that went through the goal mouth and reached Kestner at the back door for a perfect tip-in past the outstreched left skate of Patrick Munson.
Toledo then extended its lead to 4-2 one shift later. Abbott Girduckis retrieved the puck behind the Fort Wayne net, circled out of the left corner and lifted a shot from the lower part of the left circle over Munson’s blocker for his second goal of the night and 12th of the campaign with 6:45 to go in the third.
Fort Wayne answered with a late power play marker, as Anthony Petruzzelli completed his hat trick to slice the deficit to 4-3 with 3:38 remaining in regulation, and threatened to pull even on its next opportunity on the man advantage. A Jason Binkley one-timer from the point found its way past Billy Christopoulos, but was immediately disallowed by referee Alex Garon after the puck illegally hit the stick of former Toledo standout A.J. Jenks before dropping below the height of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
The Walleye clawed their way back to even strength even though Kestner lost his stick for most of what was left of the penalty kill, in large part due to the latter’s block at the hash marks and eventual soccer-style clearance that he kicked deep into the Fort Wayne zone. The visitors burned their timeout and yanked Munson for the extra attacker with 1:40 to go in the contest, but the comeback bid was effectively rendered moot when Jenks was called for high-sticking in the offensive zone seven ticks later.
Girduckis drew first blood for the Walleye with 2:24 gone in the opening period. Troy Loggins kicked the puck onto his stick and sent a pass back to Girduckis, who moved to his backhand in front and tucked a shot underneath a sliding Munson.
Fort Wayne knotted the score at one apiece just 23 seconds later. After Christopoulos opted to leave his crease and pokecheck a carom off the end boards, the puck rolled straight to Petruzelli in the slot for a wrister into the vacated net.
The Walleye quickly reclaimed their one-goal edge by the halfway point of the first frame. Berschbach escaped pressure from Jenks behind the Komets' net and centered the puck to Josh Winquist in front for a one-timer inside the left post at the 8:44 mark.
The Walleye looked to add to their margin after Taylor Doherty was whistled for hooking at 10:46, but Petruzzelli got Fort Wayne got back on level terms with a shorthanded goal. Ten seconds into the home side's first power play of the night, Petruzzelli got his stick in the way of Loggins' pass in the Toledo zone before placing a breakaway attempt inside the left post.
Toledo outshot Fort Wayne 10-7 in a goalless second period, but could not reclaim the lead until Kestner and Girduckis lit the lamp 25 seconds apart in the final stanza.
Fort Wayne finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Toledo was unable to convert on four opportunities. Christopoulos blocked 26-of-29 shots to bump his record to 14-2-2, as Munson turned aside 28-of-32 in a losing cause.
What’s Next:The Walleye will conclude a stretch of three home games in three days with another matchup against the Komets on Sunday. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Abbott Girduckis (two goals)2. Fort Wayne – Anthony Petruzzelli (hat trick)3. Toledo – Josh Kestner (goal, assist)