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Walleye silence Thunder, 3-1, as Christopoulos nearly earns shutout

Saturday, February 26th
Walleye silence Thunder, 3-1, as Christopoulos nearly earns shutout

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye scored three goals in the first period, and Billy Christopoulos held the Wichita Thunder scoreless for over 59 minutes of game time as the Fish earned their fifth straight victory, 3-1, at the Huntington Center Friday night.

Seven players collected a point in Toledo’s first home game since Feb. 12 as the Fish improved to 33-10-1-2 on the season. The Walleye continue to pace the ECHL with the league’s best record.

The Walleye jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after one period. Devon Paliani starting the scoring surge for Toledo, finding the back of the net just 2:03 after puck drop. The assist came from Brandon Schultz, who stole the puck from Wichita and found Paliani for his first goal in a Walleye uniform. 

TJ Hensick extended the lead to two just under 12 minutes later as Matt Berry tipped the puck to Randy Gazzola near the blue line, who found Hensick in front of the net for the goal. The equal strength goal was Hensick’s 19th of the season, while Gazzola and Berry collected their 24th and 19th assists, respectively. Berry’s assist extended his team best point streak to 11 games.

As the period came to a close, Toledo looked for one last scoring opportunity, and John Albert found it, scoring off the rebound of a Keeghan Howdeshell shot to give the Walleye the 3-0 lead. The power play goal, Albert’s 17th tally of the year, came with just five seconds left on the clock. Howdeshell and Berry collected the assists, sending the Fish into the intermission with a three-goal lead.

A strong defensive showing saw Toledo and Wichita play through the second period in a stalemate. Wichita edged Toledo in shots on goal, 13-11, while Berry collected the only penalty in the frame for closing his hand on the puck at 18:40. Wichita could not convert in the first 1:20 of the resulting power play, sending the Walleye and Thunder to the locker rooms with Toledo leading, 3-0.

The Walleye entered the final period shorthanded but earned the penalty kill to return to full strength 40 seconds later. The Fish looked to maintain their 3-0 lead, and Toledo held Wichita to just five shots in the frame. With just 23 seconds left in the game, Wichita’s Michal Stinil found the back of the net to spoil Billy Christopoulos’ shutout bid. Cam Clarke and Stephen Johnson earned the assists on the Thunder’s lone goal. The clock wound down, and the Walleye earned the 3-1 victory to collect their fifth straight road win.

The Walleye used a 14-shot first period to outshoot Wichita, 32-23, in the contest. The Walleye went 1-for-2 on the power play while holding the Thunder scoreless on their lone power play opportunity.

Billy Christopoulos picked up his 17th win of the season, holding the Thunder scoreless for 59:37 to collect first star honors. He saved 22 of 23 shots to earn his fourth straight win in net. Olivier Rodrigue was credited with the loss for Wichita, making 14 saves while giving up three goals in 26:06 on the ice. Jake Theut shut down the Walleye in the remaining 33:52, saving all 15 shots he faced.

What’s Next:

The Walleye continue their three-game weekend tomorrow night with the first of two games against the Reading Royals. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:15 p.m.

Three Stars:

  1. Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 22 saves)
  2. Toledo – Devon Paliani (goal)
  3. Toledo – Matt Berry (two assists)

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