KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Billy Christopoulos set a career-high with a grand total of 51 saves on Sunday afternoon, while the Toledo Walleye made the most of their opportunities in a 5-1 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings at Wings Event Center.
Christopoulos, who was recently crowned as the Howies Hockey Tape ECHL Rookie of the Month, was the obvious choice to earn first-star honors as he collected his seventh straight victory and improved to 23-3-3 on the season, while finishing just two saves shy of matching the single-game franchise record held by 2017 Calder Cup champion Jared Coreau.
A trio of Walleye (36-17-4-1) skaters picked up multiple points, as Gregor MacLeod and Josh Kestner each registered a goal and two helpers while Shane Berschbach added a power play goal and an assist. The result marks the fourth time this season that Toledo has tallied five or more goals against Kalamazoo (23-29-7-1) as the former improved to 5-0-1 in head-to-head play.
The Walleye were outshot 15-4 through the opening eight minutes, but had a golden opportunity to grab the lead later in the frame when MacLeod was awarded a penalty shot after getting hooked from behind by Kyle Blaney on a shorthanded breakaway attempt. MacLeod made no mistake on his free pass as he slowly worked his way toward the hash marks, where he pump-faked once before wristing a shot past the catching glove of Austin Lotz to open the scoring at the 10:26 mark.
Kestner doubled Toledo’s lead 1:50 later with his team-best 32nd goal of the campaign. Josh Winquist gained possession in the left corner and quickly centered a pass toward the slot to Kestner, who shifted from forehand to backhand as he guided the puck past Lotz’s stick, prompting Kalamazoo head coach Nick Bootland to burn his timeout.
The visitors went on to open up a three-goal cuhsion with 5:38 gone in the middle period. After poking the puck away from Tyler Ganly in neutral ice, MacLeod gained the Kalamazoo zone on the right wing and sent a no-look backhander to Kyle Bonis in the slot for a successful breakway attempt inside the left post.
The Walleye made it a 4-0 contest later in the frame as Berschbach scored on the power play to clinch his second consecutive 20-goal season, tying Evan Rankin for the franchise record with his third in a Toledo uniform. MacLeod dished the puck to Berschbach at the right circle for a one-timer past a sprawling Lotz at the 15:41 mark.
Kalamazoo continued to generate shot after shot early in the third period, and spoiled Christopoulos' shutout bid 1:22 into the frame. Tanner Sorenson’s slow wrister from the top of the right circle was blocked by Christopoulos, but the rebound pinballed back toward the crease, where Blaney was able to lift his second effort over the Toledo goaltender’s left pad.
The Walleye potted their fifth goal of the afternoon with 3:53 on the clock. Although Kestner's wrist shot sailed high and wide of the Kalamazoo net, Berschbach controlled the puck behind the cage and set up Marcus Vela at the lower rim of the right circle for a one-timer inside the far post. In all, Kalamazoo outshot Toledo 17-4 in the third period and 52-23 overall, but the hosts were limited to a single goal as they lost for the third time in four games to begin the month of March.
Toledo finished 1-for-3 on the power play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Lotz turned away 18-of-23 shots in a losing cause.
What’s Next:The Walleye return to the Huntington Center on Wednesday to host the Central Division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones. Game time is set for 7:15 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo - Billy Christopoulos (W, 51 saves)2. Toledo - Gregor MacLeod (shorthanded goal, two assists)3. Kalamazoo - Kyle Blaney (goal)