It seems like just yesterday the 2012-13 ECHL season had just started, and I was still struggling to spell (much less pronounce) a bunch of the Walleye players’ names. Alas, the Kelly Cup playoffs start this week, and through force of will, luck and playing the Wheeling Nailers a billion times, the Walleye have made it to the postseason.
Before I dive into the playoff preview, there’s a little bit of business to finish up. The Walleye played two games on the road last week to finish off the 72-game regular season. Last Wednesday night the Walleye traveled to Fort Wayne to take on the Komets. Goals by Aaron Bogosian and Ben Youds gave the Walleye a 2-1 lead heading into the third. The Komets scored early in the final period on the power play to tie the game at two. With 4:32 left in regulation, Kyle Rogers potted a rebound past Komets goalie Charlie Effinger to regain the lead for Toledo, and that is where the game would finish. Fort Wayne outshot the Walleye 28-27, and Kent Simpson picked up his 19th win of the season.
The regular season finale happened last Friday against the Wheeling Nailers. The game did not start out well for Toledo, as the Nailers scored four in the first period including two in the final minute. The Walleye did manage to score twice in the first twenty minutes, with goals by Kyle Rogers and Ben Youds. After letting in 4 goals on twelve shots, Jordan Pearce was pulled in favor of Kent Simpson to start the second period. The Walleye exploded for three goals apiece in both the second and third periods. Joey Martin, Willie Coetzee, Randy Rowe, Trevor Parkes and Travis Novak all got the puck past Peter Delmas for a commanding lead. Martin added his second of the night on an empty net to cap off a 8-5 Walleye win. Toledo finished the night ahead in shots, 35-30.
It’s Playoff Time!
Due to the Walleye winning their last two games and the Greenville Road Warriors tanking their last three, Toledo finished in the #7 spot in the Eastern Conference. This pits them against the North Division Champion and rival Cincinnati Cyclones in the first round. The playoff schedule is as follows:
#7 Toledo vs. #2 Cincinnati (Best-of-Seven Series):
Game 1 – Fri Apr 5 7:35 PM Cincinnati at Toledo
Game 2 – Sat Apr 6 7:35 PM Cincinnati at Toledo
Game 3 – Wed Apr 10 7:35 PM Toledo at Cincinnati
Game 4 – Fri Apr 12 7:35 PM Toledo at Cincinnati
Game 5 – Sat Apr 13 7:15 PM * Toledo at Cincinnati
Game 6 – Tue Apr 16 7:35 PM * Cincinnati at Toledo
Game 7 – Wed Apr 17 7:35 PM * Toledo at Cincinnati
This schedule is a bit odd, seeing as the lower seeded team gets the first two home games of the series. This is due to monster trucks being scheduled at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati this weekend – woo!
The teams both finished 4-3-1 against one another in the eight-game regular season series, with the Cyclones winning the final two games. The teams actually played better against each other on the road, which would work to the Walleye’s advantage if the trend continues. Cincinnati enters the playoffs in a bit of a slump, having lost six of their last eight games.
As for rosters, the Walleye enter the postseason with a fairly stable lineup, having lost most of their AHL-contracted players due to callups in the months prior. Adam Hobson has returned off the IR and is available to play and Byron Froese was just sent back down to Toledo from Rockford, and is available for the playoff roster if needed. Cincinnati has recently has had several of their better players returned from the San Antonio Rampage which should give them a boost. The Rampage are solidly out of AHL playoff position while the IceHogs are still battling for a final spot. It will be interesting to how the happenings in the AHL will affect the rosters for both teams.
If the Walleye can perform up to their ability, it would not be a huge upset to see them beat Cincinnati in the first round. Neither Toledo and Cincinnati have great power play percentages (16th and 17th respectively) and the teams are also in the middle of the pack in terms of their penalty kill. The Cyclones average an additional 2 PIMs per game more than Toledo, so it would be to the Walleye’s advantage to score on the power play occasionally. Michael Houser has been the Cyclones’ number one goaltender as of late, and looks to start the series as Brian Foster was recently recalled to the Rampage. Houser was 17-10-1-1 on the season with a 2.55 GAA and .917 SV%. Kent Simpson looks to carry his strong play as of late into the postseason for the Walleye with Jordan Pearce as his backup.
Can the Walleye win this series – I think they can. There are a lot of ECHL veterans on Toledo, and their experience will prove to be very valuable. With good goaltending and better than average special teams, I think the Walleye take the series in six. Just don’t throw things at me if I’m wrong.
Blackhawks Prospects Update: Kent Simpson finished the regular season with a 20-14-2-3 record for the Walleye with a .912 SV% and a 2.36 GAA – all Walleye team records….Ben Youds finished with 34 points (7G, 27A) and a +11…as for other Blackhawks prospects, Bryon Froese had 33 points (12G, 21 A), and Terry Broadhurst had 31 points (12G, 19A).
Final Regular Season Stats-O-Rama: Willie Coetzee led the team with 28 goals (10th in the ECHL), 40 assists and 68 total points…Cody Lampl finished with a +20…Kent Simpson led the Walleye with a 20-14-2-3 record a .912 SV% (6th in the ECHL) and a 2.36 GAA..Aaron Bogosian led the Walleye with 154 PIMs…Trevor Parkes had 7 PPGs…Coetzee finished fourth in the league with 260 SOGs…the Walleye’s power play was 15.7% (16th) and had a 83.1% penalty kill rate (12th)…Toledo was 22nd out of 23 teams, averaging 13.6 PIM per game…Toledo set new team records for total wins (37), points (83) and road wins (18)…The Walleye set a single-season franchise record for attendance, drawing 226,743 fans in 36 home games