ECHL Playoffs: Toledo Walleye vs. Kalamazoo Wings Game 3 Preview | 4/24/2024

Photo: Kalamazoo Wings

The Kalamazoo Wings are set to play against the Toledo Walleye tonight at 7:00 PM ET in Game 3 of the ECHL Central Division Semifinals in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Walleye are currently leading the series 2-0 after a convincing 5-2 win on Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio. It is a must-win game for the Wings to avoid a 3-0 series deficit. The Wings will aim to draw energy from their home crowd at the Wings Event Center and level the series at two wins apiece before heading back to Toledo.

The Kalamazoo Wings are facing a tough challenge at home against the Toledo Walleye, which has a high-scoring offense led by ECHL MVP Brandon Hawkins. In Game 1, Hawkins scored the overtime winner, and in Game 2, Sam Craggs scored a natural hat-trick all in the third period. Kalamazoo’s defense must keep these players in check, along with Riley Sawchuk, who scored two goals in Game 1. Toledo has two great goaltenders, Jad Bednar, and John Lethemon, so the Wings will need to test them with more shots on goal. Ayden MacDonald, who scored two goals in Game 1, needs to step up his offensive game along with the rest of the top two lines for the Wings.

Kalamazoo has played well against the Walleye in the first two periods of both games, but they have struggled in the third and overtime. To have a chance at winning, they need to maintain their tight checking and lockdown defense during the first two periods and then focus on locking down the game and avoiding turnovers towards the end of regulation. The Wings’ biggest weakness has been their puck management in late-game situations, which has allowed Toledo’s dangerous offensive players to take advantage. Both goalies for Kalamazoo have been solid, facing a combined 92 shots in the first two games and saving 85 out of 92. However, the team must limit their turnovers and stay disciplined to keep Toledo off the powerplay, which will help their goaltenders as well.

Toledo needs to maintain their offensive pressure for the full 60 minutes in each game of the series. They are up against a Kalamazoo team that is going to push back, and it will be crucial to keep the crowd out of the game in the sold-out Wings Event Center for Games 3 and 4. With their tight-checking and shutdown defense, Toledo can create more offensive opportunities and put up more shots on Kalamazoo’s goaltenders, Jonathan Lemieux and Hunter Vorva. Brandon Hawkins, Sam Craggs, and Riley Sawchuk will be instrumental in setting the tone for the upcoming away games at Kalamazoo and keeping the high offensive tempo flowing for the Walleye.

Toledo Walleye Series Stats:
Sam Craggs- 3 Goals
Brandon Hawkins- 1 Goal, 4 Assists
Riley Sawchuk- 2 Goals

Kalamazoo Wings Series Stats:
Ayden MacDonald- 2 Goals
Hunter Vorva- Game 1: 37/40 Saves
Jonathan Lemieux- Game 2: 48/52 Saves

Matthew Buhrmann

Writer at Inside the Rink l Covering Cincinnati Cyclones l Student @uofcincy l @Mbuhrmann61 on socials

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