Momentum can play a critical factor in the outcome of a game or playoff series. All it takes is a single play, one big hit, or a timely goal and you can take control of a game. Your Walleye have about as much momentum as a team could want heading into the Kelly Cup Playoffs: they enter on a 3 game win streak, multiple franchise records have been set, and numerous team members have earned ECHL awards prior to the start of the postseason. Toledo must be careful not to let these regular season awards distract them however, as complacency in the playoffs can lead to an early exit. Before we get knee deep in playoff hockey, let’s take a look at what the Walleye have accomplished and how it will benefit them moving forward.
Multiple franchise records were broken during the 2016-17 regular season, both by your Walleye and by us fans as well. Individual records will be listed first, and the following records set are all for the Toledo Walleye franchise:
- Single Season Assists: Shane Berschbach (68)
- Single Season Points: Shane Berschbach (86)
- Single Season Wins as Starting Goaltender: Jake Paterson (34)
- Single Season Shutouts: Jake Paterson (7)
- Most Consecutive Games with a Goal: 7 straight by Tyson Spink (Feb 12th– Feb 28th)
- Career Goals: Evan Rankin (111)
- Career Assists: Shane Berschbach (159)
- Career Points: Shane Berschbach (216)
- Most Single Season Wins: 51
- Most Goals Scored in a Season: 302
- Most Single Season Sellouts: 20
- Highest Single Season Attendance: 254,660
- Highest Average Attendance per Game: 7,074
Now for ECHL Regular Single Season Awards and Accomplishments:
- CCM Rookie of the Year: Tyson Spink
- Coach of the Year: Dan Watson
- Sportsmanship Award: Shane Berschbach
- Most Goals by a Rookie: Tyson Spink (33)
- Most Assists by a Rookie: Tylor Spink (48)
- Highest Rookie +/- Rating: Simon Denis (+40)
- Most Wins via Goaltender: Jake Paterson (34)
- Tied for Most Shutouts by a Goalie: Jake Paterson (7)
- Tied for Most Points by a Rookie: Tylor Spink (76)
- 2017 ECHL All-Rookie Team Members: Nolan Zajac, Tyson Spink, and Tylor Spink
- 2017 All-ECHL Second Team Members: Jake Paterson and Shane Berschbach
- Fewest Power Play Goals Against: Toledo Walleye (29)
- Fewest Times Shorthanded: Toledo Walleye (220)
- First Team to ever finish with the most Goals Scored (302), least Goals Allowed (191), Highest Power Play % (25.1) and Highest Penalty Kill % (86.8)
- 2017 Brabham Cup Champions
- Regular Season Central Division Champion
Okay, talk about a wall of text. Safe to say Toledo had a heck of a regular season, which would lead you to believe in future playoff success. Even with a constantly shifting roster Coach Watson and his Walleye dominated the league in almost every facet of the game. Our rookies have matured and progressed marvelously, all you need to do is look at that list and you see four rookies that prove it. Both Spinks, Denis, and Zajac have taken to the Walleye system seamlessly, which has allowed them to flourish alongside our veteran core. Discipline has been key to the Walleye game, they have not given up many chances for their opponents for 5 vs 5 or when on the PK. On the flip side, Toledo has managed to capitalize when given the opportunity (see Power Play %). Jake Paterson has finally fulfilled the role of starting goaltender, and his body of work this season has proven his ability in the crease. With the call up of Heeter to Grand Rapids, we see a reversal of last year’s tandem: Paterson has claimed the crease, while Lerg shall await the call should he be needed. Long story short, Toledo should feel a tremendous amount of confidence heading into their opening round series against Kalamazoo. Nothing in the playoffs is guaranteed however, as we know all too well from last year’s series against Reading.
Sure, these records and accolades are an amazing accomplishment, but both the team and fan base won’t be happy until we claim the Kelly Cup. Once that puck drops for the first time on Friday night, the regular season means nothing. The only thing that will matter is who is on the ice, who is in the stands, and what the score is. Hirschfeld and Jenks start off the playoffs on reserve, which against Kalamazoo may be of no consequence, but farther into the playoffs will prove problematic. Seeing Lerg on the roster has shaken some as well, there seems to be a belief floating around that he can no longer be trusted in the net. Paterson will see most of the work in the playoffs, but when and if Lerg does see the ice you should have faith in him. Despite Lerg not seeing a lot of ice time this season, he is still more than capable of getting a win or two in the playoffs with the team he has in front of him. Hirshy and Jenks should return to the ice soon as well, so Toledo’s roster can only improve as the playoffs continue. Combined with the Red Wings failing to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can benefit from receiving AHL reinforcements over the course of the playoffs. As a result, the Walleye have more than enough going for them to make a push for the Kelly Cup.
Playoff hockey is some of the most exciting, edge of your seat action that a sports fan can ask for. With the ability for a game to change in an instant, it leaves fans breathless and hungering for more. The Walleye look to leave their opponents in the dust and on their bus back home, as it’s time for the Walleye to join all other Toledo hockey franchises as champions. We have won almost every other award to be earned this year thanks to a phenomenal regular season, but now it’s time to hoist the Cup in T-Town! Hope to see you Friday and Saturday, for it’s time to ground the Wings and begin the Quest for the Kelly Cup!
Pictures are my own while stats were acquired from the ECHL and Toledo Walleye websites.