TOLEDO, Ohio – Justin Buzzeo and Josh Kestner each netted a pair of goals as the Toledo Walleye earned their season-high fourth straight win with a 6-2 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye (19-9-3-0), who tallied six or more goals for the third consecutive game and eighth time this season, have won each of their three meetings against Kalamazoo (12-16-3-0) during the 2019-20 campaign. In all, Toledo has recorded at least a point in five straight contests (4-0-1) and nine of its last 10 overall (7-1-2).
The Walleye drew first blood just 44 seconds into the opening period, as Steven Oleksy sent a wrist shot from the right point that hit the near post and pinballed off the back of Kalamazoo netminder Jake Hildebrand's right leg before trickling over the goalline.
The game had all the makings of a barnburner as Kalamazoo quickly pulled even at the 2:29 mark. Justin Taylor poked the puck away from Oleksy’s stick behind the Toledo cage and towards Matheson Iacopelli, who banked a shot from the left goalline off the back of Billy Christopoulos and in.
Toledo then reclaimed the lead on another sharp-angle attempt later in the first frame. After T.J. Hensick won an offensive-zone faceoff at the right dot, Buzzeo eased his way past Matt VanVoorhis and banked a shot from below the right goalline that went off the back of Hildebrand’s mask and into the top right corner at 8:51.
Buzzeo eventually potted his second goal of the period to double Toledo's lead at the 17:51 mark. Under pressure from Brenden Kotyk in his own right corner, Jordan Kovacs’ pass was intercepted by Buzzeo, who was all alone in front as he moved to the backhand and roofed a shot into the top right corner for his 11th goal of the season.
With the Walleye still ahead by a pair approaching the halfway mark of regulation, Kestner scored to give his team a comfortable 4-1 advantage. Reigning Inglasco/ECHL Player of the Week Shane Berschbach intercepted Aaron Thow’s backhanded pass in the left corner and quickly centered the puck to Kestner in front for a redirection inside the left post at the 8:43 mark.
Toledo remained in complete control during the third period, scoring twice in a 24-second span to open up a 6-1 cushion. The hosts scored their lone power play goal of the night on a near tic-tac-toe sequence, as Marcus Vela sent a diagonal pass toward the lower part of the left circle to Josh Winquist, who in turn slid the puck through the crease to Kestner for a tap-in and his team-best 15th goal of the year.
The Walleye added their sixth goal one shift later on another odd-man rush. Troy Loggins outwaited VanVoorhis before toedragging his way into the slot and setting up Branden Troock at the lower part of the right circle for a one-timer into an open net, prompting Kalamazoo to yank Hildebrand in favor of Jake Kielly.
Toledo alumnus David Pope added a power play goal with 6:47 remaining to cut the margin to 6-2, which proved to be the final tally. The Walleye finished 1-for-4 on the man advantage, while the Wings scored on 1-of-2 opportunities.Christopoulos made his 10th straight start between the pipes and stopped 31-of-33 shots to improve to 10-1-2 in his rookie campaign, as Hildebrand turned away 28-of-34 in a losing cause before Kielly stopped all nine attempts he faced in relief.What's Next:The Walleye will remain at the Huntington Center on Saturday for a 7:15 p.m. puck drop against the Indy Fuel. Indy makes the trip to the Glass City after losing 5-2 on home ice to the Fort Wayne Komets. Three Stars:1. Toledo - Justin Buzzeo (two goals)2. Toledo - Josh Kestner (two goals)3. Toledo - Josh Winquist (three assists)