The Walleye ended the calendar year with a busy stretch during the bustle of the holiday season with four games in five days.
Toledo earned six out of an available eight points with three wins and a loss. The Walleye opened the tough span with a 5-2 home win over Indy on Dec. 27. They followed that up with a wild 3-2 win over Kalamazoo last Friday night at the Huntington Center.
The team then traveled to Wheeling the next day and topped the Nailers 5-4. But a visit to rival Fort Wayne ended on a sour note on New Year's Eve as the Komets blanked Toledo 3-0.
It was the third time this season that the team has played four games in a quick span of just five days. The Walleye went through the same grueling stretch twice in November. Toledo also played four games over six days in October.
The rough schedule always involves lengthy bus trips, sometimes overnight. Second-year pro Kevin Tansey said it's a grind.
“Those are tough,” he said. “It's a mental grind as much as a physical grind. We have a very nice sleeper bus with bunks that have curtains. But when you're playing four in five days and getting into [a new town] at 3 in the morning, it's tough. You get rest where you can get it. That's why on our off days, the guys sit on the couch with not much going on. You have to rest your mind and body.”
The road weariness and quick turnarounds can sometimes lead to the increase risk of injury and sometimes sluggish play at the tail-end of the trip. It also can affect the quality of play and level of competition.
“Seventy-two games add up. It's tough on the body,” said Tansey, a defenseman.
The Walleye open up 2018 with five straight home games beginning Friday against Cincinnati. They then host Manchester on Saturday.
Toledo Walleye player Beau Schmitz defends against Fort Wayne Komets player Kyle Thomas during the ECHL playoffs last season. The Komets have turned the tables on Toledo this season.
ROLE REVERSAL: Toledo is just 1-4-1 against arch-enemy Fort Wayne this season. The Walleye are 1-1-0 at home and 0-3-1 against the Komets on the road.
“They have had our number,” Tansey said. “We've struggled a bit in Fort Wayne. We need to do something to switch that up.”
Fort Wayne is still just 3-14-2 in its last 19 games at the Huntington Center.
The teams meet just two more times this season. Fort Wayne comes to the Huntington Center on Jan. 12. The rivals then do not meet again until April 6 in Fort Wayne.
Toledo went 5-1-0 against the Komets last year. The Walleye knocked the Komets out of the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2015 and last season.
The teams are the closest in the ECHL with just 106 miles separating the Huntington Center and Memorial Coliseum. Fans from both teams travel well to the opposing team's venue. A bus full of Walleye fans made the trek to Indiana on New Year's Eve.
ALUMNI ALERT: Former forwards Tylor and Tyson Spink are among the top eight scorers for their new team in Europe. The brothers now play for a team based in Orebro, Sweden, in the Swedish Hockey League.
Tyson Spink has 14 points (7 G, 7 A) in 33 games. Tylor Spink has 12 points (5 G, 7 A) in 30 games. The 24-year-olds started their pro career in Toledo in 2015-16 and became two of the team's top offensive producers last season. Tylor Spink, a center, finished second on the team with 76 points in 66 games. He scored 28 goals to go along with 48 assists. Tyson Spink, a left winger, led the team in goals scored with 33. Tyson Spink also distributed 42 assists and finished third on the team in overall points with 75 in 69 games. The brothers were linemates. Tyson Spink was named the ECHL's Rookie of the Year. He led all ECHL first-year players with 33 goals and in game-winning goals with nine. He finished third among rookies with 75 points.
At the midpoint of last season (36 games) with Toledo, Tyson Spink had a team-high 39 points (18 G, 21 A) and Tylor Spink had 36 (12 G, 24 A).
FISH TALES: Tansey, who is in second pro season after playing in Missouri last year, said Toledoans have welcomed him with open arms.
The native of Hammond, Ont., said on his first day in town, he went to Monnette's Market. He told one of the workers there that he was new to town.
“I told them I was not from the area and immediately three other people came up to me,” Tansey said. “They told me things to do around here and were so friendly. People here are immediately willing to help.”
■ F Erik Bradford led all Walleye players in points in December with 12 (7 G, 5 A) over the 13 contests. F Charlie O’Connor led all Toledo rookies with seven assists and was a plus seven. D Davis Vandane led the Walleye in plus-minus rating with a plus-9 for the month.
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