ECHL: Toledo Walleye First-Round Opponent Announced for 2024 Playoffs

Photo via Toledo Walleye

The Toledo Walleye will face the Kalamazoo Wings in the opening round of the 2024 Kelly Cup playoffs. The series will start Friday, April 19, at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo, Ohio. The format will be a 2-2-1-1-1, with the Walleye getting four games, including the decisive game seven if there is one.

Walleye Ready To Do Battle With Division Rival

Toledo and Kalamazoo have done battle 13 times this season, with Toledo holding a 4-7-2 record. Although the Walleye have been the superior of the two teams in the league all season, they have had trouble with the feisty Wings. Kalamazoo has played Toledo tough, with most games close and down to the wire. While having a solid lineup, the Wings have used their defense and bottom-six to get the best of the Walleye. Toledo has not been able to play a fast, offensive style in the season series that has carried them to one of the best records in the league.

The Wings’ goaltending tandem of Jocelyn Lemieux and Hunter Horva has given Toledo fits, stopping high-danger chances and turning away power-play opportunities. Lemieux and Horva have allowed 203 goals this season but have not given teams many opportunities at rebounds. They have given the Wings a solid one-two punch between the pipes and could be a big reason why this series could be closer than most think.

The Walleye has a record of 48-14-4-5 for 105 points and a .736-points percentage. They were 23-7-1-5 at the Huntington Center and 25-7-3 on the road, second most in the league for wins on the road. After earning a playoff spot and winning the Central Division, The Walleye came into the end of the regular season with a 14-game winning streak. Kalamazoo has a record of 38-30-4 for 80 points and a .556-points percentage. At the Wings Event Center, they posted a record of 20-14-2 while going 18-16-2 on the road. The Wings enter the playoffs with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10 games.

The first two games will take place in Toledo on April 19 and 20. The next two games will take place in Kalamazoo, and they will be on April 24 and 26. The series then shifts to a 1-1-1 format with the Walleye at home on April 27, then Kalamazoo will have the home game on April 30, then a series finale, if needed, will be on May 1 in Toledo.

The leading scorer for Toledo was Brandon Hawkins, who scored 40 goals and 53 assists for 93 points in 70 games. Riley McCourt led the defense in scoring with eight goals and 44 assists for 52 points, and goaltender John Lethemon was the netminder with the most wins, posting a record of 26-7-2 with an .892 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against-average. For the Wings, Erik Bradford led Kalamazoo with 30 goals and 57 assists for 87 points. Derek Daschke led the defense with 16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points, and goaltender Hunter Horva led the team with a 20-14 record, a .920 save percentage, and a 2.51 goals-against-average.

While Toledo had a better record and more firepower, Kalamazoo played the Walleye harder than any other opponent and had a winning record against Toledo. This series can go the distance, and Kalamazoo is looking for the big upset in round one. Toledo may have to play a different type of game since the one they played during the regular season did not amount to much success against the Wings. Head Coach Pat Mikesch may have to go a different route and plan something to change the success against Kalamazoo heading into round one, game one.

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