TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye and Atlanta Gladiators combined for 85 shots on goal Saturday night, but it was the Walleye who came out on top, 5-3, in front of 8,034 fans at the Huntington Center.
Matt Berry led the Walleye with a goal and two assists in his return to Toledo while Kaden Fulcher made a season-high 39 saves on the defensive end. Five players scored as the Fish improved to 29-10-3 on the season.
The Walleye took the early lead on John Albert’s goal 3:43 after puck drop. The goal was Albert’s 14th of the season, bringing his point total to 22. Brady Tomlak and Brandon Schultz picked up the assists as the Walleye took the 1-0 lead.
Nine minutes later, Matt Berry found the back of the net in his first game with the Walleye since Nov. 26, extending the lead to two goals. TJ Hensick dished the puck to Brandon Hawkins from the left circle, and Hawkins found Berry on the right side of the net. Berry lifted the puck past Chris Nell for the score, extending his point streak to a team-high seven straight games.
Both teams found themselves on the power play in the final three minutes as Atlanta’s Kameron Kielly was called for hooking at 17:05 and Toledo’s Brady Tomlak picked up a tripping minor at 19:14. Toledo did not find the back of the net during their opportunity while the first period buzzer sounded before the end of Atlanta’s power play. Toledo outshot Atlanta, 16-6, in the opening frame, leading, 2-0, through one period.
The Gladiators took the man advantage into the first 1:14 of the second period, but the Walleye earned the penalty kill to come back to full strength. Atlanta’s Mike Pelech entered the penalty box for holding at 3:16, sending Toledo to the man advantage. This time, the Fish capitalized as Mitchell Heard found the back of the net at 3:50. Matt Berry earned the primary assist, his first of the period, while Brandon Hawkins picked up the secondary assist.
Toledo’s 3-0 lead only lasted 38 seconds before Atlanta netted an equal strength goal, courtesy of Derek Nesbitt. The score was Atlanta’s first of the game, trimming the Walleye lead to 3-1. Nesbitt scored the goal unassisted.
The Gladiators went on the power play at the 8:35 mark when Brady Tomlak entered the penalty box for high-sticking, while Zach Yoder picked up a slashing penalty for the Gladiators at 13:59. Neither team found the back of the net on the power play as the Walleye remained ahead by two for most of the period.
Just 23 seconds before the end of the middle frame, TJ Hensick scored his 18th goal of the season to put the Walleye back up by three. Butrus Ghafari dished the puck to Matt Berry, who skated toward Atlanta’s goal and took a shot. The puck bounced back towards Hensick, who found the back of the net at 19:37. Hensick now has 43 points on the season, while Berry’s three points through two periods increased his total to 27.
The Gladiators clawed back to within one goal of the Walleye in the third period, scoring at 5:37 and 14:57 to make the score 4-3. Michael Turner scored the first goal at equal strength with assists from Sanghoon Shin and Zach Yoder, while Elijah Villio’s goal came on the power play. Shin and Derek Topatigh assisted.
Toledo looked to close out the contest late as Atlanta pulled their goaltender with 1:20 to go. That opportunity came with eight seconds remaining as Brady Tomlak was awarded an empty net goal after an Atlanta player illegally wrapped his stick around him. Tomlak’s goal, assisted by Conlan Keenan and Ryan Lowney, was his eighth of the year. The Fish went on to win, 5-3, collecting their 29th win of the season.
Toledo edged Atlanta in shots on goal, 43-42, and power play opportunities, 6-5. Both teams found the back of the net once with the man advantage while Toledo earned one empty net goal.
Kaden Fulcher made a season-high 39 saves on 42 shots in his third straight win for the Walleye. He moves to 7-3-0 in 11 appearances for Toledo this season. Chris Nell was credited with the loss for the Gladiators. He made 38 saves on 42 shots for Atlanta.
The Walleye begin a three-game road trip on Wednesday night, traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Cyclones. Puck drop from Heritage Bank Center is set for 7:35 PM.
- Toledo – Matt Berry (power play goal, two assists)
- Toledo – Kaden Fulcher (W, 39 saves)
- Toledo – Brady Tomlak (empty net goal, assist)