ECHL Central Division Semi-Finals Game 1 Recap: Kalamazoo Wings vs. Toledo Walleye | 04/19/2024

Toledo Walleye Celebrate a goal

The Toledo Walleye faced off against the Kalamazoo Wings in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals on Friday night at the Huntington Center located in downtown Toledo, Ohio. The game featured a thrilling goalie matchup between John Lethemon for Toledo and Hunter Vorva for Kalamazoo. The first period was marked by tight-checking and uneventful plays. The two teams were no strangers to each other, having faced off numerous times during the regular season. The Walleye successfully killed a tripping penalty midway through the period and continued to showcase impressive defense. The first period ended with a score of 0-0, with the Wings leading the shot count at 11-6.

The second period began with tight checking, much like the first period. However, this did not last long. The Kalamazoo team was the first to score, with Ayden MacDonald redirecting the puck into the net, giving them a 1-0 lead. A little over three minutes later, Ayden MacDonald extended their lead to 2-0 with a tic-tac-toe power-play goal after Riley Sawchuk of Toledo made an undisciplined tripping penalty. Not even a minute later, Riley Sawchuk made up for his penalty with a snap-shot goal, trimming the deficit to 2-1. In the final minutes of the period, Riley Sawchuk scored again on an odd-man rush to even the game 2-2 going into the second intermission. All four goals of the first two periods were scored by only two players, namely Riley Sawchuk of Toledo and Ayden MacDonald of Kalamazoo.

Toledo had a powerplay opportunity just 41 seconds into the third period, but Kalamazoo’s penalty kill managed to resist once again. Both teams played with solid defense and goaltending during the third period. Jacob Graves received a cross-checking minor penalty for Toledo 12 minutes into the period, but Toledo’s penalty kill was able to keep the game tied this time. Jon Lethemon made a couple of incredible saves to keep the game tied, and it headed into an extra intermission. During the regular season, these two teams had already gone into overtime three times, so it was fitting that Game 1 of the first round would do so as well.

During the playoffs, there are intermissions between overtime periods, and the teams play with five players instead of three, as it is during the regular season. In this overtime period, the game did not last long, and the Huntington Center, filled with 7,700 fans, erupted in cheers as Brandon Hawkins, who was named the ECHL MVP, made an incredible diving effort to poke the puck past Hunter Vorva of Kalamazoo, thus securing a 3-2 victory. Kalamazoo will now need to recover from this loss quickly, as they will face Toledo Saturday night for Game 2 of the Central Division Semifinals at the Huntington Center at 7:15 PM ET.

Matthew Buhrmann

Writer l Inside the Rink l Studying Operations Management at the University of Cincinnati

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