ECHL Playoffs Recap: Wheeling Nailers Vs. Toledo Walleye Game 2 | 5/4/2024

Toledo Walleye celebrate a 5-3 win over the Wheeling Nailers to go up 2-0 in the series.
Photo Credit: Drake Harlett | Inside The Rink

After winning game one of the Central Division Finals Friday night, the Toledo Walleye hosted the Wheeling Nailers for game two of the Central Division Finals, with the Walleyes taking a 2-0 series lead after a 5-3 win Saturday night at Huntington Center in Toledo, OH. With tonight’s win, the Walleye extended their win streak to 20 games between the regular season and playoffs.

Jaxon Castor played lights out once again in net for the Nailers, stopping 37 of the 41 shots he faced in the loss.

Jan Bednar picked up the win in net for the Walleye, stopping 30-of-33 to help his team to a 2-0 series lead.

First Period

Much like the first period in Friday night’s game, Toledo came out shooting at any chance they had. Through the first five minutes, the Walleye tested Nailers’ goaltender early, putting four quality shots on net that were turned away.

At 7:25 of the first, Toledo opened the scoring as Jason Willms collected his first goal of the playoffs. Jason Lewandowski forced a turnover in Toledo’s end, turned the puck up ice, and made a perfectly placed sauce pass across the ice on the tape of Willms. Willms gave Castor no chance of getting over to make the save as the puck was on and off his stick, and into the back of the net in an instant.

Wheeling knotted things up at 17:13 off an offensive zone faceoff. Jordan Martel ripped a shot right off the faceoff that was saved by Bednar. The rebound made its way to the hash marks on the left-wing side for Justin Lee to pick up and move down below the goal line to Matt Koopman. Koopman made one quick turn to bring the puck up the wall and pass it back to Lee, who was drifting toward the middle of the ice just above the top of the circle. Lee one-timed the puck to beat Bednar over the blocker side.

Just moments later, Toldeo retook its lead at 17:50. The Walleye made good and quick movements around the Nailers’ zone to keep the puck moving. Jacob Graves received a give-and-go pass from Trenton Bliss, drove the outside along the right-wing wall, cut to the middle just below the faceoff circle, and found Mitchell Lewandowski with his stick on the ice looking for a tip. Castor was unable to move quickly enough to keep the puck out of the back of the net. Lewandowski picked up his second goal of the series on the play.

Photo Courtesy of Drake Harlett | Inside The Rink

The Nailers trailed 2-1 after one, being outshot 14-11 in the period. The Nailers were 0-for-1 on the powerplay as they could not generate much on it.

Second Period

Just over 2 minutes into the second, Wheeling had a great chance to tie the game, but Bednar made two stellar saves in a net-front scramble to prevent the puck from crossing the goal line and keep Toledo’s 2-1 lead.

Matt Anderson extended the Walleye lead to 3-1 at 4:02 of the period. Sam Craggs moved the puck across the blueline to Michael Prapavessis, who then made a shot-pass that was going wide of the Wheeling net. Anderson would tip the puck at an almost impossible angle on the left-wing side that bounced off the right shoulder of Castor and into the net. It was Anderson’s first goal of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Down by two, the Nailers needed to get on the board next to keep the game within reach, and they did just that. If anyone was going to get it done, it was going to be Isaac Belliveau, as he put home a rebound to make it a 3-2 game at 12:56. Matthew Quercia held the puck up by the blue line on the right-wing side, waiting for an open option. Louie Roehl gave him the option he was looking for and one-timed a shot on net. Bednar kicked the rebound out, and Belliveau was there to make Bednar pay for his mistake.

Toledo again extended its lead to two at 15:47. Wheeling’s Dillon Hamaliuk tried a drop pass just inside the Toldeo zone, but was easily picked off by Craggs and turned back the other way. Brandon Kruse skated the puck into the Wheeling zone and stopped up to slow things down and found Orrin Centazzo crashing the net and tipped the puck over the blocker hand of Castor to make it a 4-2 hockey game.

Photo Courtesy of Drake Harlett | Inside The Rink

Toledo outshot Wheeling 16-10 in the second period and 30-24 through two periods of play. Wheeling went 0-for-2 on the powerplay and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.

Third Period

The third period needed to be a big one for the Nailers if they wanted any chance of going home with the series tied at one. Lee gave Wheeling hope of climbing back into the game as he scored his second of the night to make it a 4-3 game at 8:57 of the period. Quercia would fire a shot well wide of the mark, but a puck hop off the boards found Davis Bunz along the boards on the right-wing circle. Bunz dished a pass out to Lee who made a beautiful toe-drag move around one defender, get the puck under control, and roof a shot on the far side over the blocker side shoulder of Bednar and right under the crossbar.

Wheeling could not muster up much more to bring the game back even and Toledo’s Riley Sawchuk took advantage of an open net opportunity to make it a 5-3 game and put a stamp on his team’s victory at 19:11.

Wheeling were outshot in the final frame, 12-9 and 42-33 for the game. Wheeling finished 0-for-3 on the powerplay and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill for the game.

What’s Next

Wheeling will look to bounce back and avoid getting itself into a bigger hole as it will host Toledo for game 3 at WesBacno Arena in Wheeling, WV, on Wednesday, May 10, with a puck drop scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

Zachary Alvarado

Inside The Rink journalist covering the Wheeling Nailers and Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL. I am a Duquesne University Sports Information and Media major graduating in December. I have been passionate about hockey since I was 4 years old.

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