TOLEDO, Ohio – Brandon Hawkins led a four-goal charge in the second period of Saturday’s Game 2 matchup, helping the Toledo Walleye take the 2-0 Central Division Finals lead with a 5-2 decision over the Wheeling Nailers.
Hawkins and TJ Hensick posted three-point performances while Billy Christopoulos made 30 saves in net as Toledo won its fourth straight playoff game. The win sets the Walleye up for the road stretch of the series with a two-game advantage.
Wheeling took the 1-0 lead lust one minute into the game on a Matt Alfaro equal strength goal. Alfaro’s goal was his first of the playoffs, and Tyler Drevitch recorded the lone assist.
Toledo and Wheeling played the next 11 minutes in a defensive battle with neither team scoring or going on the power play. That changed at 12:23 when Josh Dickinson entered the penalty box for holding, giving the Nailers their first power play of the game.
The Fish prevented Wheeling from extending the lead before taking the man advantage themselves at 17:39 following a Bobby Hampton tripping call. Toledo remained scoreless on the power play and ended the first period trailing, 1-0. Wheeling held a 14-11 shot advantage in the opening 20 minutes.
The Walleye dominated an action packed second period, scoring four goals to take a big lead over Wheeling. Toledo started the period shorthanded after Chris Martenet picked up a hooking penalty 34 seconds in, but the Fish went on the power play with four minutes gone to set up Brandon Hawkins’ first goal of the period at 5:23. Randy Gazzola and TJ Hensick assisted on the game-tying goal.
Hawkins’ second goal came at the 14:49 mark off the rebound of a John Albert shot. Hensick added an assist to give the Walleye the 2-1 lead. Hawkins has a team-leading nine goals in the playoffs and three in the series.
Just under a minute later, Cam Clarke scored his second goal of the playoffs to extend the lead to two. Patrick Curry and Brett Boeing dished the assists on the goal.
The Walleye took the man advantage again late in the second after a slew of penalties were called against both teams at 17:58. Matt Berry picked up a tripping penalty for Toledo while David Drake and Shaw Boomhower collected penalties for tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct, respectively.
At the 18:44 mark, TJ Hensick took advantage of the power play with his first goal of the game and third point of the penalty. Brandon Hawkins added his third point with an assist while Randy Gazzola collected his second helper of the game. The goal gave set the Walleye up for the third period with a 4-1 lead.
The Nailers looked to get back in the game in the third period, pulling goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon to bring on an extra skater at the 6:37 mark. With 7:12 gone, Brett McKenzie found the empty net to stretch the Toledo lead to four. Blake Hillman assisted on the Walleye’s fifth goal of the game as the Fish took their largest lead of the night.
At 10:35, Wheeling made up for the empty netter with an unassisted equal strength goal from Justin Almeida. The Nailers cut into the Walleye lead, making it 5-2 with 9:25 to play in regulation.
The Nailers earned one more power play opportunity at the 13:05 mark on a Chris Martenet cross-checking minor as they looked to trim the Toledo lead to two. The Walleye held the Nailers without a shot during the power play to return to full strength unscathed.
Two players from each team received ten-minute misconducts in the final minute for continuing an altercation, sending Toledo’s Conlan Keenan and Chris Martenet to the locker room, along with Wheeling’s Luke Bafia and Tyler Drevich. The Walleye took the 2-0 series lead with the 5-2 victory, winning both games at the Huntington Center to open the series.
The Nailers outshot the Walleye, 32-30 in the contest while each team took the man advantage three times. The Walleye found the back of the net on the power play twice while holding the Nailers scoreless with the man advantage. Toledo also added an empty net goal.
Billy Christopoulos earned his fourth straight win in net for the Fish, saving 30-of-32 shots. Louis-Philip Guindon recorded the loss, making 25 saves on 29 shots for the Nailers.
The Walleye will look to take a commanding 3-0 series lead when they head to Wheeling for Game 3 of the Central Division Finals on Tuesday, May 10. Puck drop from WesBanco Arena is set for 7:10 p.m.
- Toledo – Brandon Hawkins (two goals, assist)
- Toledo – TJ Hensick (power play goal, two assists)
- Toledo – Billy Christopoulos (W, 30 saves)