In what seems to be a developing Walleye tradition, Toledo has won their Central Division Semi Final series against the Kalamazoo Wings after a thrilling 3-1 victory in Game 7! The series was hard fought on both sides, with physical plays leaving both teams with injured players. As of April 27th, Toledo will be without the services of Simon Denis and Jake Paterson as we gear up for the Central Division Finals. We will be taking on the Fort Wayne Komets, in what has been the most anticipated postseason match up for both teams this year. Home ice has proven to be the difference so far in the 2017 Kelly Cup playoffs, as both Toledo and Fort Wayne are undefeated at home (combined 6-0) after their first round series. The Walleye had a stellar regular season series against the Komets, so we will see if Toledo can carry that success over into the playoffs. Before the puck drops tomorrow for Game 1, a quick comparison of the Komets and Walleye can tell us what to expect from the series.
Toledo Walleye Playoff Roster:
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
Justin Agosta, Matthew Caito, Simon Denis, Jordan Hill, Landon Oslanski, Beau Schmitz, and Nolan Zajac
Jeremy Brodeur (ATO), Jeff Lerg, Jake Paterson
Jake Paterson and Simon Denis
Fort Wayne Komets Playoff Roster:
Mason Baptista, Mike Cazzola, Trevor Cheek, Taylor Crunk, Gabriel Desjardins, Mike Embach, Travis Ewanyk, Brett Perlini, Jamie Schaafsma, Shawn Szydlowski, Kyle Thomas, and Garrett Thompson
Jason Binkley, Kyle Follmer, Curtis Leonard, Ryan Lowney, Dan Milan, Bobby Shea, Cody Sol, and Will Weber
Garret Bartus and Pat Nagle
Top 5 Scorers for Each Team in Playoffs:
Kyle Bonis (11), Tyson Spink (11), Evan Rankin (9), Shane Berschbach (8), and Nolan Zajac (7)
Fort Wayne Komets:
Shawn Szydlowski (8), Mike Cazzola (7), Kyle Thomas (5), Jamie Schaafsma (4), and Gabriel Desjardins (3)
Goaltenders First Round Performance:
Jake Paterson finished the series with record of 3-2-0, a GAA of 3.41, and a SV% of 0.894
Jeff Lerg went 1-1-0 against Kalamazoo with a GAA of 2.86 and a SV% of 0.879.
Jeremey Brodeur went 33-14-2 with the OHL Oshawa Generals, ending with a GAA of 2.84 and a SV% of 0.916. Will serve as backup to Lerg.
Fort Wayne Komets:
Pat Nagle went 4-0-1 against Quad City with a GAA of 2.25 and a SV% of 0.912.
Garrett Bartus has not seen action during the 2017 Playoffs, but had a GAA of 2.68 and a SV% of 0.905 in the regular season.
Special Teams Play:
So far the Power Play (PP) unit has 6 goals for a 25.0% efficiency (5th in first round), while the Penalty Kill (PK) has allowed 4 goals for a 82.6% efficiency (8th in first round).
Fort Wayne Komets:
After the first round the Komets have the most effective PP with 6 goals and a 40.0% efficiency (1st), while their PK comes in at 6th with a 88.9% efficiency after allowing only 2 goals.
Regular Season Head to Head Series:
Toledo had an excellent regular season series against the Komets, going 5-1-0-0 with their only loss coming at the Huntington Center on April 2. In six games the Walleye scored 26 goals, with 13 PP goals, and allowed 12 goals against, with only 1 of those coming from Fort Wayne’s PP unit. Here is another way to view it: Toledo has scored 4.33 goals per game, allowed only 2 goals per game, achieved a 41.9% PP rating, and had a smothering PK unit by killing off 93.8% of Fort Wayne’s power plays. The Komets Power Play unit could not make anything work in the regular season, with an abysmal percentage of 6.3% (1 for 16). Their Penalty Kill wasn’t much better, coming in at a 58.1% rating. Jake Paterson went 4-1-0-0 with a 0.925 SV% against Fort Wayne this season, with Cal Heeter getting the 5th win for the Walleye. Four different goaltenders played against Toledo while with the Komets this season: Garrett Bartus, Eric Hartzell, P.J. Musico, and Pat Nagle. Nagle was the only one to record a win, and went 1-1-0-0 against Toledo with a .886 SV%.
Toledo Walleye Strengths (+) and Weaknesses (-):
+Home Ice Advantage
–Short Rest Between Series
-Injuries to Denis and Paterson
Fort Wayne Komets Strengths and Weaknesses:
+Special Teams Play
-Difficulty Playing Toledo
-Start the Series Away
If you wanted to know how Toledo responds to adversity, you’re about to find out with this series. The Walleye enter the Division Finals with the odds stacked against them: Short on rest, two injured starters in Denis and Paterson, and a defense that is struggling to find it’s groove. For the first time since the beginning of the season Toledo’s special teams don’t rank in the top three in the ECHL. Fort Wayne has been playing well early in these playoffs, and would appear to have the advantage over Toledo. All of these factors would suggest an exit from the Kelly Cup Playoffs for Toledo. We still have a few tricks up our sleeve though! The first being home ice.
Our fans have been amazing all year long, and helped Toledo defeat the Wings in the first round. Don’t underestimate the impact the fans have on a team’s performance, both for the Walleye and against the Komets. Scoring has always been a strength for us, and that continues in these Kelly Cup Playoffs. We scored at least 3 goals in every game against Kalamazoo, with an average of 3.71 goals per game. If Toledo can continue this against the Komets we will keep the pressure off of our defense, and keep them off the scoreboard as well. Finally, we have our ace in the hole… Jeff Lerg! Now I know what you are thinking, Lerg hasn’t played a full game since March 12th and that this is Paterson’s team. In terms of the Walleye being Paterson’s team: it absolutely is, and when Patty recovers from injury he will be the starter once again. Until that happens it will be Lerg’s show, and we shouldn’t be concerned! Although he hasn’t played a full game since mid March, that just means Lerg is fresh. Game 7 against the Wings showed that Lerg still has the ability win high pressure games, which we should have already known from his past seasons with the Walleye. One more thing: Lerg really likes playing the Komets. Over his ECHL career Lerg is 9-5-0 (including playoff meetings) against the Komets and lead the Walleye to a series win over Fort Wayne in the second round of the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Have faith in Lerg and the rest of this team, and have confidence going into Game 1!
Although it is possible that we could see Heeter return to the Walleye from Grand Rapids, I wouldn’t bank on it. In terms of players, who we have now is who we have for this second round. Regardless of who is on the ice for us, I believe we will get it done. I would anticipate a 6 or 7 game series in Toledo’s favor, though I think we can all agree we don’t want another Game 7 for a while. See you at the Huntington Center for Game 1, and Let’s Go Walleye!