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Christopoulos earns first pro shutout as Walleye blank Nailers

Monday, March 2nd
Christopoulos earns first pro shutout as Walleye blank Nailers

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye erupted with four second-period goals on Sunday, while Billy Christopoulos earned his first professional shutout in a 6-0 victory over the Wheeling Nailers at a sold-out Huntington Center.Tonight’s attendance of 7,505 marks Toledo’s 24th capacity crowd of the season and the 200th sellout in franchise history.

In total, Christopoulos turned away all 25 shots he faced to collect first-star honors and improve his win-loss mark to 21-3-3. Christopoulos, who recorded eight shutouts over his final two years at Air Force, is responsible for his squad’s first shutout of the campaign. The Walleye (34-16-4-1) used goals from six different scorers to rout the Nailers (24-26-5-0), as Shane Berschbach, Gregor MacLeod, T.J. Hensick, Josh Kestner and Troy Loggins all notched a goal and an assist, while Josh Winquist added two helpers.

The hosts netted the opening goal with 3:48 gone in the first frame. After intercepting a rinkwide pass at the Wheeling blue line, Bonis became the 10th Toledo skater to score 10 or more times this season when he loaded up a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that went off the underside of the crossbar and in. 

The Walleye went on to double their lead prior to the 90-second mark of the middle period. Nolan Gluchowski's wrist shot from the right point bounced off a Wheeling leg in the right circle, but the puck rolled all the way to Hensick near the left goalline for a sharp-angle attempt past the blocker of Emil Larmi.

Although the Walleye were unable to cash in on a myriad of power play chances later in the frame, the hosts opened up a 3-0 cushion at the 7:42 mark. After Winquist's initial slapshot was blocked in the high slot, he sent the puck toward the right circle to Kestner, whose centering feed hit a Wheeling leg and ricocheted straight to Loggins at the top of the right dot for a one-timer into the top right corner.

Toledo then added its fourth goal 1:50 later. MacLeod gained the Wheeling zone on a 3-on-2 and delivered the puck to Loggins at the bottom of the left circle, before the latter sent a pass through the goal mouth to MacLeod for a one-timer past Larmi’s catching glove.

Wheeling's night went from bad to worse as the Walleye increased their lead to 5-0 in the final minute of the second stanza. Winquist intended to chip the puck to Kestner at the left circle, but his pass pinballed off a pair of Nailers in front and right to Berschbach, who collected the puck near the right side of the crease and tucked home his 19th goal of the campaign with 50.7 seconds left in the period. 

The Nailers replaced Larmi with Alex D’Orio between the pipes to start the third period, but the Walleye tallied their sixth and final goal on the power play with 16:43 remaining. Kestner took a lead pass from Berschbach at the Wheeling line and had plenty of room to wrist his breakway attempt inside the right post.With his team-best 30th goal of the year, Kestner became the sixth skater in franchise history to score 30 or more goals in a single season, joining Bonis, Tyler Barnes, Tyson Spink, Evan Rankin and Mike Hedden. 

Toledo finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Wheeling failed to score on its sole opportunity. Larmi stopped 25-of-30 shots over the first two periods, before D'Orio blocked 6-of-7 in relief.

What’s Next:The Walleye will hit the road for three games in as many days, beginning on Friday when they travel to the Hoosier State to face the Indy Fuel. Puck drop from Indiana Farmers Coliseum is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.

Three Stars:1. Toledo - Billy Christopoulos (W, 25 saves)2. Toledo - T.J. Hensick (goal, assist)3. Toledo - Josh Kestner (power play goal, assist) 

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