KALAMAZOO, Mich. — By virtue of a 4-1 win over Kalamazoo on Friday night, the Walleye are now just one win away from clinching a spot in the ECHL playoffs.
Willie Coetzee scored twice, and goalie Kent Simpson made 33 saves to lead Toledo (35-24-9) to the important road win.
Tyler Brenner scored the game-winner, and Joey Martin tallied his 14th goal of the season to open the scoring.
Toledo has four games left in the regular season, and the Walleye need just two points to guarantee a berth in the Kelly Cup playoffs.
If the Walleye defeat Reading in a matchup in Toledo today, they will clinch a spot.
Kalamazoo (32-29-6) entered the game trailing Toledo by seven points for the eighth and final playoff spot. Wings goalie Joel Martin finished with 29 saves. Mitch Versteeg spoiled Simpson's shutout bid late in the third period.
“We knew that Kalamazoo was going to play desperate hockey tonight, and they did,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “Our team responded with a good defensive game. The biggest key was that we found a way to get some goals past Martin.”
The Walleye moved into a tie for seventh place with Florida in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
Coetzee, the team's leading scorer, also had an assist. He leads the team in points (62), goals (27), and assists (35).
Martin also had an assist on Coetzee's second goal.
Simpson ( 17-12-5) made his fifth straight start. He had a shutout streak of 125 minutes and 12 seconds snapped late in the game.
The Walleye scored two first-period goals to take control.
Joey Martin wristed a shot past Joel Martin just 1:32 into the game. Toledo made it 2-0 when Brenner slammed a rebound past Martin for his 10th goal of the season at 10:09 of the first period. Phil Oreskovic and Travis Novak got the assists.
Coetzee collected a steal in the Kalamazoo zone and wristed a shot through the legs of Martin in the second period. Coetzee then made it 4-0 when he jumped on a rebound for his second goal of the game at 3:48 of the third.
Toledo hosts Reading, which leads the Eastern Conference, today and Sunday. The team then plays at Fort Wayne on Wednesday and wraps up the regular season at Wheeling on Friday.
The team also could break the organization's all-time attendance record. A total of 211,562 fans have attended the 34 home games. The record will be broken if 14,904 attend the games this weekend. The franchise’s single-season attendance record of 226,575 was set during the inaugural 2009-10 season.
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