ECHL Playoff Game Night: 4-25-17

Kalamazoo Wings 1 at Toledo Walleye 3
Toledo wins series 4-3

F Brian Hart, KAL, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIMS, 1 SOG
Playoff Totals: 7 GP, 4-1-5, -3, 5 PIMS, 20 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 33 GP, 6-5-11, -7, 6 PIMs, 71 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 33 GP, 3-4-7, E, 26 PIMs, 50 SOG

F Cameron Darcy, KAL, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIMS, 5 SOG
Playoff Totals: 7 GP, 3-7-10, +1, 2 PIMS, 24 SOG
Season Totals (ECHL): 20 GP, 5-20-25, +11, 10 PIMs, 51 SOG
Season Totals (AHL): 34 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 14 PIMs, 40 SOG

Other Notables
G Nic Riopel, KAL, did not play (backup)
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 2-2-0-0, 4.01 GAA, 0.849 SV%
Season Totals (ECHL): 32 GP, 18-12-0-1, 3.13 GAA, 0.899 SV%, 1 SO

Thirty-six seconds. That was the difference in this game, in this series. Former Syracuse Crunch forward Evan Rankin broke loose at 8:29 into a 1-1 tied 3rd period, and buries the eventual game winner past Kalamzaoo netminder Joel Martin. Thirty-six seconds later, Zach Nastasiuk takes advantage of a bad K-Wings change and blows in alone and stuffs another past Martin for the 3-1 Toledo lead and eventual win. The Walleye advance to play the Fort Wayne Komets in the Central Division finals. Toledo, under ECHL Coach of the Year Dan Watson, won an ECHL record 51 regular season games, but Kalamazoo gave them everything they could handle in this series. The K-Wings could just never break through to take that necessary road win, as the home team won each game in the series. Brian Hart didn't get credit for the K-Wings goal in the 1st period, but the replay sure looked like he deflected Charlie Vasaturo's point shot from the top of the crease in front of Toledo backup netminder Jeff Lerg. Walleye goalie Jake Paterson left the game in the first with an undisclosed injury, and you have to hand it to Lerg making 13 saves on 14 shots coming in cold in a Game 7. Kalamazoo can hold their heads high despite the outcome, as it was a great run down the stretch for a team that really seemed to turn the corner in the last third of the season.

Bolt Prospects now turns our attention to prospect forwards Cameron Darcy and Brian Hart. The Syracuse Crunch are still early in the Calder Cup playoffs, but its extremely crowded at the forward position. Perhaps they will be able to join the practice squad, with an outside chance of maybe Darcy getting in a game at some point. He has earned it with his stellar play over the last 26 games in Kalamazoo, but there is a lot of young players with skill getting a look-see and plenty of vets needed to help secure a series win against St. John's, so it would certainly be a long shot. With Connor Ingram with the Crunch, I doubt we see Nick Riopel recalled, unless the practice squad needs a second goalie.

Looking forward to next season with both Darcy and Hart in the final years of their ELCs, the Crunch lineup at forward will be tough to crack. Stephens, Joseph, Cirelli, Yan, Tammela along with Peca, Bournival, Froese, and McGinn, and Erne and Condra as bubble guys will all be in the mix. That's 9-11 forwards without even considering (re)signing of veteran free agents. Darcy and Hart will have their work cut out for them, but Darcy in particular was such a critical piece of the late season success of the K-Wings team, and he deserves more than a hat tip for going down and being one of the team's best players game in and game out.

We'll end the ECHL season coverage at Bolt Prospects will a salute to the Kalamazoo Wings. It was a fun and dramatic series to watch, and like the rest of the organization, it seems like the future is brighter than today is.