Central Division Semifinals: Toledo Walleye (1) vs Kalamazoo Wings (4)

It. Is. Time… FOR TOLEDO WALLEYE PLAYOFF HOCKEY! We have finally reached the day where we begin our quest for the Kelly Cup! We will start off against the Kalamazoo Wings, as you all know by now, but they are an opponent we cannot underestimate. Time to break down each team’s playoff roster, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s see how they stack up for the coming series!

Toledo Walleye Playoff Roster:

Forwards:
Shane Berschbach, Kyle Bonis, Alex Globke, Alden Hirschfeld, A.J. Jenks, J.P. LaFontaine, Zach Nastasiuk, Charlie O’Connor, Evan Rankin, Carter Sandlak, Tylor Spink, Tyson Spink, and Dane Walters

Defensemen:
Justin Agosta, Matthew Caito, Simon Denis, Jordan Hill, Landon Oslanski, Beau Schmitz, and Nolan Zajac

Goaltenders:
Jeff Lerg and Jake Paterson

Kalamazoo Wings Playoff Roster:

Forwards:
Tyler Biggs, Kyle Blarney, Anthony Camara, Cam Darcy, Brian Hart, Tyler Heinonen, Scott Henegar, Josh Pitt, Lane Scheidl, Peter Schneider, Tanner Sorenson, and Justin Taylor

Defensemen:
Kyle Bushee, Eric Kattelus, Blake Kessel, Sean O’Rourke, Michael Trebish, Charlie Vasaturo, Ben Wilson, Micheal Zipp

Goaltenders:
Joel Martin and Nick Riopel

Top 5 Scoring Players for Each Team:

Toledo Walleye:
Shane Berschbach (86), Tylor Spink (76), Tyson Spink (75), Evan Rankin (55), and Simon Denis (55)

Kalamazoo Wings:
Justin Taylor (61), Peter Schneider (55), Lane Scheidl (51), Tanner Sorenson (43), and Blake Kessel (40)

Goaltenders Performance:

Toledo Walleye:
Jake Paterson’s record comes in at 34-13-1, GAA of 2.28 and a SV% of 0.918
Jeff Lerg’s record is 3-1-1, GAA of 3.40, and a SV% of 0.890

Kalamazoo Wings:
Joel Martin has earned a 19-18-1 record, a GAA of 3.18, and a SV% 0.904
Nick Riopel comes in at 18-12-0, had a GAA of 3.13, and a SV% of 0.899

Offense and Defense:

Toledo Walleye
Over the course of the regular season Toledo scored the most goals and also allowed the least amount of goals. 302 goals were tallied by the Walleye (4.19 per game) and 191 pucks got past the Toledo netminders (2.65 per game).

Kalamazoo Wings
The Wings did not find the back of the net as easily as the Walleye did, as they were only able to score 222 times. That places them at 19th in the ECHL (3.08 goals per game). Defensively K-Zoo put up a better performance, allowing 237 goals which is good for 13th (3.29 per game).

Special Teams:

Your Toledo Walleye had the league’s best special teams during the regular season, with the Power Play (PP) coming in at 25.1% and 73 PP goals scored. The Penalty Kill (PK) killed off 86.8% of penalties and allowed 29 goals.

The Kalamazoo Wings special teams were mediocre at best. Their PP unit only cashed in on 14.3% of their chances (24th in the league) and scored 42 PP goals. As for the PK, Kalamazoo allowed 48 PP goals and killed off 81.9% of penalties (17th).

Head-To-Head Series:

Toledo and Kalamazoo will be meeting for the first time in the Kelly Cup Playoffs as their current franchises, the Wings and Toledo Goaldiggers met way back in the 1984 playoffs and Toledo emerged victorious. Toledo won the season series against K-Zoo, winning 6 of 10 games and outscoring the Wings 35-23 in those games. 11 of those Walleye goals came on the PP, while the Wings only had 4 goals scored on the man advantage. Toledo was never shut out during those contests, while K-Zoo was shut out two times. Riopel of the Wings has the best stats of the goalies on each team’s playoff roster, he went 2-0-0 with a GAA of 1.95 and a SV% of .933, although two games played is a small sample size. Paterson went 4-3-1 with a GAA of 2.36 and a SV% .926%.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Toledo Walleye
The Walleye have a distinct advantage when it comes to scoring proficiency, as shown by our PP and 5 on 5 scoring both in the season series and during the regular season. Expect high scoring games with a fully loaded Walleye offense. Toledo is not good when faced with physical play however, and Kalamazoo has used this to their advantage during the regular season. Expect the Wings to throw their bodies around early to neutralize the Walleye offense.

Kalamazoo Wings
The Wings are going to have to rely on stellar goaltending during this series if they want a chance to win, and Nick Riopel may be the man to do it. Although he has only played twice against the Walleye, he has been rock solid in both games to give his team convincing wins. I would expect Riopel to get the start Friday night. Kalamazoo’s biggest weakness is certainly their special teams, particularly the PP unit. You have to be able to score when you play Toledo, and a measly four PP goals during the season series just won’t cut it. If K-Zoo can’t get the scoring going, it will be over very quickly.

Predictions:

Although the regular season series turned out looking relatively even, Toledo with six wins and K-Zoo with 4, I do not believe the playoffs will yield the same results. The Walleye offensive juggernaut is in full swing and ready to propel the team along this playoff push, and I don’t think Riopel or Martin will be able to win the series for Kalamazoo. Walters will be looking to continue his hot steak, and Jenks may be returning to the line up sooner than anticipated. Either way, this is bad news for K-Zoo! Kalamazoo’s defensive core is sure to be taxed by the youth and speed of this Walleye team, although their physicality will win some battles for the Wings. Toledo’s blue liners are composed of All-Stars, AHL talent, and Defensemen of the Year contenders, so don’t expect the Wings to have an easy path to the net. Paterson finished the year strong as well, and the Goaltender of the Year Runner Up is looking to add some new hardware to his trophy cabinet. Looking at these factors and previous outcomes, expect the series to go 5 or 6 games, with the Walleye advancing on to the Central Division Finals.

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