TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye bounced back from an early two-goal deficit on Wednesday, scoring three times in a 1:52 second-period span en route to a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones inside an unusually quiet Huntington Center.The midweek matchup between the Walleye (37-17-4-1) and Cyclones (38-17-7-1) was played under a restricted attendance policy due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19), meaning only official team members, credentialed personnel and media were permitted to attend the game.
After falling behind 2-0 in the opening period, Josh Winquist, Kevin Spinozzi and Brenden Kotyk lit the lamp in quick succession to give the Walleye a 3-2 lead by the three-minute mark of the second stanza. Josh Kestner eventually scored what proved to be the game-winning tally with 7:45 to go in regulation, before Kotyk banked his second goal of the night off the glass and into an empty net with 35.8 seconds on the clock.
Kotyk was one of four Walleye skaters to show multiple points, as Winquist and Kestner each recorded a goal and an assist while Shane Berschbach dished out a pair of helpers. At the other end, Billy Christopoulos turned away 26-of-29 shots to pick up his eighth consecutive victory and improve to 24-3-3 on the season.The Walleye, who have won seven out of 10 regular-season meetings against Cincinnati this season, now sit five points behind their intrastate rivals in the Central Division standings with four games in hand.
The Cyclones carried the play to begin the contest and seized a 1-0 lead at the 4:18 mark. Nate Mitton took a rinkwide pass from Mason Mitchell at the Toledo line, drove down the right wing and returned the puck to Mitchell in front for a tap-in past the right pad of Christopoulos.Cincinnati went on to double its advantage with 1:27 remaining in the first frame. Cody Milan was the first to a loose puck at the left circle and promptly set up Pascal Aquin for a one-timer that got a big piece of the Toledo netminder's catching glove before trickling in.
After being outshot by a 10-4 count through the opening 20 minutes, the Walleye needed all of 37 seconds to get on the board one period later. Berschbach took a bouncing stretch pass from Kestner in the Cincinnati zone, showing veteran patience to send Kurt Gosselin out of position before sending the puck through the slot to Winquist at the right circle for a one-timer over a spawling Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Toledo pulled even exactly one minute later, as Hensick gathered the puck behind the Cincinnati net and set up Kevin Spinozzi at the top of the left circle for a sharp one-timer that went off the inside of the right post and in.
Fifty-two seconds after Spinozzi restored parity, Kotyk lifted the hosts to a 3-2 lead. Abbott Girduckis gained the Cincinnati line and dropped the puck to Kotyk, who had plenty of time and space in the slot to snap a shot that squeezed between Luukkonen’s left arm and body at the 2:29 mark.
The Walleye went on to add to their lead in the third period courtesy of Kestner's team-leading 33rd goal of the season. At the left circle, Kestner drove toward the net on his backhand as he won the battle for position against Tobie Bisson, and shifted back to his forehand for a shot that glanced Luukonen's catching glove and rolled underneath his right pad before inching over the goalline with 7:45 left in the contest.
Cincinnati tallied a power play goal to slice its deficit in half with 4:31 to go in regulation. On a tic-tac-toe sequence, Justin Baudry sent a slap-pass toward the left circle to Jesse Schultz, who quickly delivered the puck to Justin Vaive in the slot for a one-timer through the five-hole of Christopoulos. However, the Cyclones' rally was halted when Kotyk banked a clearing attempt off the glass that rolled the length of the ice into a vacated net with 35.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Cincinnati finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while Toledo was unable to convert on three opportunities. Luukkonen blocked 15-of-19 shots in defeat.
What’s Next:The Walleye are scheduled to head to the Hoosier State on Friday for a matchup against the Fort Wayne Komets. Puck drop from the Memorial Coliseum is at 8:05 p.m.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Josh Winquist (goal, assist)2. Toledo – Josh Kestner (goal, assist)3. Toledo – Brenden Kotyk (two goals)