CINCINNATI, Ohio – Billy Christopoulos put together a 29-save performance for the Toledo Walleye on Thursday night, but the offense had no answer for Michael Houser as the Fish fell, 2-0, to the Cincinnati Cyclones in Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals.
The Walleye held the Cyclones scoreless until late in the second period, but the Cyclones stifled Toledo’s chances at finding the back of the net throughout the contest. The Walleye trail, 3-2, as the series shifts back to Toledo for a must-win Game 6 matchup at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye and Cyclones skated to a scoreless opening period behind strong defensive play from both teams. Billy Christopoulos made 14 stops for the Walleye while Michael Houser made eight for Cincinnati.
Each team had two power play opportunities in the frame, starting with Cincinnati just 3:35 into the contest after a John Albert slashing minor. Shortly after returning to full strength, the Walleye earned a chance of their own on the man advantage after Dajon Mingo was called for boarding at the 6:07 mark.
Toledo briefly returned to the power play at 9:21 on a Matthew Cairns hooking penalty, but TJ Hensick’s holding penalty 31 seconds later brought the teams to a 4-on-4 situation for the next 1:29. The Walleye played shorthanded after Cincinnati returned to full strength and earned the successful penalty kill with 11:52 gone.
The contest remained scoreless through the rest of the first period and most of the second as the Walleye outshot the Cyclones, 15-13, in the middle frame. The Cyclones went on the power play twice while the Walleye had one opportunity on the man advantage, but neither team scored a power play goal in the frame.
With 17:13 gone in the second frame, Lincoln Griffin broke the scoreless tie Max Balinson and Louie Caporusso assisted. The goal marked Griffin’s first in the series and helped the Cyclones take the 1-0 lead into the final intermission.
The Walleye pressured the Cyclones early and often in the third period, but Cincinnati came away with a goal with 10:43 gone in the frame. Zack Andrusiak scored his fourth goal of the series as Justin Vaive and Jesse Schultz assisted. The goal extended the Cincinnati lead to two with just over nine minutes to play in regulation.
Toledo went on three straight power plays over the next several minutes as Dajon Mingo was called for interference at 11:41 and Justin Vaive joined him in the penalty box with 12:07 for holding. 19 seconds after returning to full strength, Vaive went back to the box for slashing to leave Cincinnati shorthanded. The Cyclones killed off all three penalties to maintain their two-goal lead with under four minutes to play.
With 1:44 remaining, the Walleye brought on an extra skater in an attempt to close the gap. With 1:07 left in regulation, Brandon Hawkins was called for tripping, forcing Toledo to bring Billy Christopoulos back on the ice as the Walleye went shorthanded. Christopoulos went back to the bench with 44 seconds to play, but the Cyclones held Toledo without a shot for the rest of the game to earn the 2-0 shutout victory, taking the 3-2 series lead.
The Walleye outshot the Cyclones, 42-31, in the game behind a 19-4 shot advantage in the third period. Neither team scored on the power play, with Toledo taking the man advantage seven times to Cincinnati’s five.
Michael Houser stopped all 42 shots for the Cyclones to earn the win in net. Billy Christopoulos took the loss for Toledo, making 29 saves on 31 shots.
The Walleye will look to force Game 7 when they return to Toledo for Game 6 on Saturday, April 28. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is set for 7:35 p.m.
- Cincinnati – Michael Houser (W, shutout, 42 saves)
- Cincinnati – Zack Andrusiak (goal)
- Cincinnati – Lincoln Griffin (game-winning goal)