Walleye OpenerWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Walleye recorded their first home opener victory since their return to the ECHL with a 4-1 win over the Kalamazoo Wings.
This is the first home opener win for Toledo (1-0-0) since their return to the ECHL in 2009 and their second season opener victory. They shut out the Wheeler Nailers 4-0 in 2010.
“You’re unsure until you get out there and see how it all looks and these guys have impressed us all throughout the week during training camp and they continue to do so tonight,” said head coach Nick Vitucci.
Rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek played as if he was in mid-season form in his ECHL premiere. He finished the night with 33 saves.
“I don’t really care about a shut out or not,” Mrazek said. “We played like a team and that was most important. They had a really good power play and that was a really lucky goal for them.”
Mrazek, a native from the Czech Republic, had a 30-13-6 record last year with the OHL Ottawa 67’s.
In addition to Mrazek’s work behind the pipes, the Walleye defense shut down Kalamazoo’s power play, holding the Wings (1-1-0) to one power play goal and just two shots on goal in six attempts.
“Penalty kill was fantastic, your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender and he was certainly very good,” Vitucci said. “This is a league where you’re going to see a lot of power plays and penalty kills. I thought they did a good job of sacrificing themselves and keeping it simple when we got possession of the puck.”
Center Max Campbell netted two goals and an assist tonight. In addition, his line, which included left winger Andrej Nestrasil and St. Cloud State alumnus Travis Novak on the right side, played well together, combined for three of the four goals and eight points.
Campbell, who scored 12 goals with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder last season, said the three never played together all week but he did practice with Novak.
“That was the first time, we didn’t practice together all week,” Campbell said. “I didn’t play with [Nestrasil] all week. It was pretty easy to play with those two guys.”
Vitucci said combining the trio was a “last second audible.”
Campbell, who played his college hockey with Western Michigan, got the offense started early on and netted the first goal just 3:36 into the game off of a pass from behind the net from Nestrasil. Novak also recorded an assist on the play.
The offense carried into the second period as Nestrasil, who had seven goals and 22 assists for the Walleye last season, pulled Toledo ahead 2-0 just under two minutes in. Campbell and Novak, assisted on the play.
From his knees, forward Willie Coetzee slapped a loose puck that crawled into the back of the net with 12:58 left in the third period.
Coetzee has spent the past few seasons in the Red Wings organization, going back and forth between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Walleye since 2009.
Kalamazoo got on the scoreboard with 3:16 left in the game on a power play goal scored by Elgin Reid and defenseman Sam Ftorek picked up the assist. The goal was Reid’s second of the season.
Campbell knocked in his second goal and drove the final nail in the coffin on an empty netter with 1:04 left in regulation.
Prior to the game, the Walleye honored the late Bryan Rufenach by presenting a framed jersey to his parents and brother. In addition, all the players will wear 21 on their helmets in memory of their fallen teammate.
“We’re thrilled his family was able to come here and be here tonight,” Vitucci said. “I certainly wish it was under different circumstances in a large degree but we’re happy that we are able to do something to honor him and we’re happy the family was able to be here to see it.”
The Walleye return to the ice Oct. 19 when they host the Cincinnati Cyclones. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:05 p.m.