Another sellout crowd at the Huntington Center translated into another home victory for a Toledo Walleye team that has won five consecutive games.
The Walleye topped Cincinnati for the second straight night, dropping the Cyclones 3-2 before a capacity crowd of 8,042.
Patrick McCarron, Christian Hilbrich, and Zach Nastasiuk scored goals, and goalie Pat Nagle won his 10th game of the season. Hilbrich and Nastasiuk scored just 40 seconds apart late in the first period.
“We wanted to keep the momentum from [Friday night],” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “Our guys can score in bunches. It puts pressure on the other team when you get that two-goal lead.”
Toledo (11-2-2) remained undefeated in five home games, have had sellout crowds for all five, and lead the ECHL in average attendance (8,008).
“The message from Day 1 was that the Huntington Center is a special place, and we're going to play our best hockey here,” Watson said. “We won't get outworked here. We love playing here. It's an exciting atmosphere and the boys feed off the crowd.”
The Walleye, who now lead the Western Conference with 24 points, finished with a 34-18 edge in shots against the Cyclones and never trailed.
Hilbrich, who had a hat trick in Thursday's 6-3 home win against Fort Wayne, had a goal and an assist.
“Winning at home is so important,” Hilbrich said. “It's a lot of fun to play here. We're starting to gel. The team morale is really high and we're riding it out.”
The 6-foot-7 forward scored a power-play goal with 6:06 left in the first to give the Walleye a 2-1 lead. Shortly thereafter, Nastasiuk scored on a shot from a tough angle to put the Walleye up 3-1.
Toledo scored on three of its first nine shots against Cincinnati goalie Anthony Peters.
“We've done that a few times this year,” Hilbrich said of the quick scoring outburst. “We have a lot of talent offensively on this team.”
McCarron, a defenseman who just returned from a brief call-up to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, scored seven minutes, 29 seconds into the contest for an early 1-0 lead.
“He had a strong game after getting on a flight at 6 a.m. and flying into Toledo,” Watson said.
Cincinnati tied it at 1 on Geoff Fortman's unassisted goal with 9:49 left in the first.
After the Walleye outburst, the Cyclones got it to 3-2 near the game's midpoint when Jesse Schultz scored on a bang-bang play right in front of the Toledo net.
Nagle, who improved to 10-0-2, made a snap glove save just moments into the second, then stoned Mitch Nylen on a solo breakaway with 9:33 left in the second.
“He makes it look easy,” Hilbrich said. “He's played really well in every game and that's why he has such great stats.”
Nagle has started in 12 of the team's 15 games.
“I've been fortunate to be getting a lot of ice time,” Nagle said. “It's great to get in a rhythm. It's a blast playing [at the Huntington Center]. With a big crowd on your side like that, it gets the energy level up for the guys.”
The Walleye, who have not lost in regulation since Oct. 27, defeated the Cyclones 6-2 in Cincinnati on Friday night. The Cyclones (7-5-1) entered the game in second place behind the Walleye in the Central Division.
On Oct. 27, the Walleye had a 2-2-1 record.
“At that point, I was wondering when things would start clicking,” Watson said.
The second-year coach said he thought he'd have a better read on his team about 15 games into the season. Since then, Toledo has won nine of 10 games.
“I think we're still getting better,” Watson said.
Walleye forward Erik Bradford, who was acquired in a trade early this week, finished with two assists and got into a fight.
Watson said Nagle made several timely saves.
“He did not expect to start [on Friday] and found out [at] about 1:30 he was starting. Then he comes back tonight against the same team. He's a true pro and always prepared,” Watson said. “He's stood tall for us several times on short turnarounds.”
Toledo is in the midst of playing three consecutive games against Cincinnati. The former longtime rivals, who have been in different divisions in recent seasons, meet again at Cincinnati on Wednesday. The teams, who met just five times last year, square off eight times this season.
“We got the first two,” he said. “Now we want to be greedy. Let's get three.”
FISH TALES: captain Alden Hirschfeld, who is on the 21-day injured reserve list, was back behind the bench helping coach. The Sylvania native is expected to miss a significant amount time with a lower-body injury.
Watson said Hirschfeld's status will be determined by team doctors, But he said he wanted to keep Hirschfeld closely involved on game days. Hirschfeld has been behind the bench the past three games.
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“He's been such a massive part of our team,” Watson said. “It's nice to have another set of eyes.”
■ The Walleye were 5-of-7 on the power play Friday. Toledo entered the game converting on just 12 percent of their chances with the man advantage. But that instantly bumped up to 19.3 percent after Friday's performance.
The five power-play goals Toledo netted tied a franchise record. That record initially was established during the team's inaugural season in 2009-10.
Toledo went 1-of-5 in this game. A week ago, the team's power play ranked No. 23 out of 27 in the ECHL. It's now ranked eighth.
Watson said he was not worried about his power-play unit in the early going.
“We were having good looks, but they finally started to go in for us,” Watson said. “With the skill we have, we're going to score on the power play.”
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