Walleye face uphill swim


The path to the ECHL playoffs continues to get steeper and steeper for the Toledo Walleye.

The team must win all three of its remaining games in the regular season without its No. 1 goalie. They also must get help from the teams that play Cincinnati and Elmira, who they are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Walleye are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They trail Cincinnati, which won Wednesday, by six points.

Toledo got a big boost from Trenton last night when the Devils held on to knock off Elmira 5-4. The Walleye trail Elmira by four points and have a game in hand on the Jackals. Toledo also hosts Elmira Friday night and could potentially pull into a tie with them if the Walleye win.

The three teams are fighting for two remaining playoff slots. But Toledo faces the stiffest challenge.

"It's certainly not an ideal situation to be in and we recognize that," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. "But we'll make the most of it and we'll see what happens."

The Walleye play Thursday  night at Wheeling. The team's regular season home finale is Friday at 7 p.m. The last game is in Wheeling on Saturday.

"We need to get six points this weekend," Vitucci said. "That's what we have to do now. We just have to worry about ourselves and focus on Wheeling and then Elmira after that. Whatever happens around us is out of our control."

Toledo also has a game in hand against Cincinnati and is hoping the Cyclones, the defending Kelly Cup champions, lose in their season finale against Kalamazoo Friday.

If two teams tie for the final spot, the first tiebreaker is total regular season wins, excluding shootout wins. The second tiebreaker is points, head-to-head, followed by wins head-to-head. The Walleye are 3-3-0 against Elmira and 9-5-1 against the Cyclones.

Toledo also must be perfect without the services of goalie Thomas McCollum, who has been called up to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.

McCollum, 21, had started 14 straight games for the Walleye. He had three shutouts and an 11-9-2 record with a 2.76 goals against average.

Joe Palmer will assume the goaltending duties for the final three games. Palmer has a 4.23 goals against average and a 9-12-1 record in 25 games this season. Palmer has not played since Feb. 20.

"He's a very capable goaltender," Vitucci said. "The year has not gone the way he had hoped either. But we have all the confidence in the world in Joe."

The Walleye are 3-3-0 against Wheeling. The Nailers have already clinched a playoff spot, but are looking to improve their seeding.

"They are worried about their position," Vitucci said. "Our thought is we need to go in there and get two points."

FISH TALES: Forward Andy Bohmbach was named to the ECHL all-rookie team by league coaches. Bohmbach leads all rookies with 68 points. He also leads all first-year players in assists with 43. He is second among rookies with 25 goals. He was Toledo's representative at the ECHL All-Star game in January.

Bohmbach made his pro debut with Toledo this season after a four-year career at the University of Wisconsin. He has averaged more than a point per game and is a plus-12.

"This is a terrific and well deserved honor for Andy," Vitucci said. "He is a complete player. He has grown as a professional throughout this season and is a dominant factor every time he is on the ice. He's a special part of this team."

Since the ECHL began naming the all-rookie team in 2000-01, 13 players selected have gone to play in the National Hockey League.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6354.