Game Day Preview: Toledo Walleye (12-3-0-0) vs Greenville Swamp Rabbits (4-4-2-0)

Gobble Gobble Gobble everybody! Hope you have time to squeeze in some quality FIRST PLACE Walleye action during your Thanksgiving celebrations, because we still have home ice hockey to play! Toledo is perfect during their seven game home stand with wins over the Atlanta Gladiators and twice over Central Division rival Kalamazoo. Over the course of the last three games the Walleye offense has posted at least four games in each game, while limiting opponents to 2 or less in two of the games. The Swamp Rabbits come in off a victory in what is proving to be a hard start to the 2016-17 season, and it doesn’t look to get any better with a trip to the ECHL leading Walleye’s Pond. Team stats for Toledo and Greenville follow:

League Standing: 1st place at 12-3-0-0 with 24 points
Western Conference Standing: 1st
Central Division Standing: 1st
Goals Scored Average: 4.33, with 65 total goals ranking 2nd
Goals Allowed Average: 2.73, with 41 goals allowed this year ranking 9th
Power Play: 16.7%, 17th
Penalty Kill: 80.8%, 21st

Greenville Swamp Rabbits:

League Standing: 25th place at 4-4-2-0 and 10 points
Eastern Conference Standing: 11th
South Division Standing: 6th
Goals Scored Average: 2.6, with 26 total goals tied with Norfolk for 26th (second to last)
Goals Allowed Average: 3.3, with 33 goals allowed ranking 3rd
Power Play: 7.7%, 26th (second to last)
Penalty Kill: 86.8%, 8th

The Walleye offense is firing on all cylinders and is proving near impossible to stifle. Evan Rankin had one of the best weeks of hockey in his ECHL career: seven points over three games, a hat trick against the Gladiators, a filthy shootout winner against Kalamazoo, and two appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays nabbing the second spot both times. Rankin was featured in the show due to his shootout winner and a spinning backhander that caught both the Atlanta defenseman and netminder off guard. Our power play is beginning to show improvement as well, with 4 power play goals over the three home games. The defense is steadily improving as well, with Cal Heeter beginning to make a case as the team’s number one goaltender over Jake Paterson. I wouldn’t anticipate a clear number one goalie to emerge anytime soon though, Coach Watson will most likely use them equally unless one of them seriously drops off. Oh by the way, did I mention we are leading the ECHL?

The Swamp Rabbits have had a hard go early in the year, they just can’t get their offense going. No offense is bad against any team in the ECHL, but especially when you’re about to run into the buzz saw that is the Walleye offense. Greenville cannot allow a high scoring game; they have to rely on a defense to keep it close. The defensive unit is not without it’s own problems however. Though they are ranked 8th in the league in terms of goals allowed, Greenville has also played fewer games than most teams. As a result, that particular statistic may not be an accurate measurement of their defensive ability. Rather, the 3.3 goals allowed average tells the difficulty they have of keeping the puck out of the net. The Swamp Rabbit power play is absolutely AWFUL, with only 7.7% of their man advantages resulting in a goal. On the other hand, their penalty kill unit is ranked 8th with an impressive 86.8% of penalties killed off, which may be the best unit on the team.  Looking at paper you would assume the Walleye should be able to come out of this contest with a victory, but anything can happen on the ice. Hope to see you all at the Huntington Center tomorrow night for a spot of Walleye before your turkey! LET’S GO WALLEYE!

walleye-warm-ups-16-bit-night

Warm ups prior to the Walleye’s 16-bit theme night against the Kalamazoo Wings

Stats obtained from the ECHL and Toledo Walleye Website:
http://www.echl.com
http://www.toledowalleye.com

Picture at the end is my own property

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