WHEELING, WV – The Kalamazoo Wings (22-20-0-2) are without several big names in their lineup, but the team has pulled together and have put together a four-game winning streak and are climbing in the Central Division standings. Kyle Bushee, Tyler Biggs and Justin Taylor remain sidelined for the time being.
To help fill their roster, the K-Wings signed forward Michael Neal to a contract on Thursday. Neal played fo the K-Wings during the 2014-15 season. Last season, Neal was captain for the Indy Fuel where he posted a career year with 20 goals and 32 assists.
The K-Wings traveled to Toledo, Ohio in Thursday for a game against the Walleye. The game was originally scheduled back in November, but due to weather it was rescheduled for Thursday.
After a scoreless opening period, the Walleye scored quickly in the second period on Thursday to give the home team a 1-0 lead just 1:06 into the frame. TJ Hensick scored his 16th of the season, extending his point streak to 13 games. Ten minutes later, Tyler Spezia made it a 2-0 lead with his ninth goal of the season.
Tanner Sorenson put the K-Wings on the board with just 51 seconds remaining in the period to cut the Walleye lead in half. The goal by Sorenson was his 13th of the season.
Tying the game midway into the third period, Tyler Ganly scored his fourth of the season, completing a pass from Kyle Thomas. But the Walleye came right back and scored the go ahead goal just over a minute later.
Kyle Thomas found a rebound in front of the net to score his ninth of the season to knot the game 3-3 with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
Neither team could end the game in regulation, so for the second straight game, the K-Wings and Walleye headed to overtime where Kyle Blaney scored the game winner for the K-Wings just 21 seconds in. The K-Wings outshot the Walleye 43-35. Jake Hildebrand was in net for the win. Both teams came up empty on the power play.
After an off day on Friday, the K-Wings headed east to West Virginia to take on the Wheeling Nailers.
Blaney picked up where he left off on Thursday night as he scored the first goal of the game just 3:45 into the opening period. The goal was his seventh of the year. The Nailers tied the score late in the period on a power play goal by Michael Phillips.
Exploding for three goals in the second, the K-Wings took a 4-1 lead into the locker room after the first 40 minutes.
Kyle Thomas scored his 10th of the season to give the K-Wings a 2-1 lead. Reid Gardiner followed with a pair of power play goals just 54 seconds apart. The goals by Gardiner were his 22nd and 23rd of the season.
A wild third period produced two more goals and 86 penalty minutes between the two teams. Surprisingly, there were no penalty minutes for fighting. Six of the penalties were 10 minute misconducts, four for the Nailers and two for the K-Wings.
The Nailers cut the K-Wings lead in half with a goal by Johnny Austin, but the K-Wings Jagger Dirk added a power play goal later in the period as the K-Wings held on for the 5-2 victory.
Outshooting the Nailers 24-23, the K-Wings scored three power play goals on six chances while the Nailers connected for one goal in seven attempts. Hildebrand was in goal for the K-Wings
Kyle Thomas now has a six-game goal scoring streak as well as a seven game point streak with his goal and assist in the game. Both are career highs for him.
The K-Wings, who have 46 points, have moved into fifth place in the Central Division, just two points behind the fourth place Fort Wayne Komets and three points behind the third place Indy Fuel. The Cincinnati Cyclones lead the division with 64 points while the Walleye are in second with 61. The Nailers are in last with 44 points. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.
Returning home for a Wednesday night game, the K-Wings will take on the Indy Fuel with two big points up for grabs. Game time is 7:30 pm.
By: Mark C. McGlothlen