Walleye fall to KometsWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Blown assignments and communication breakdowns were the Toledo Walleyes’ Achilles’ heel as the team let a third-period lead slip away against the Fort Wayne Komets in an early morning matchup Nov. 7.
The Walleye lost 4-2.
As the game was School Appreciation Day attended by area elementary, middle school and high school students, perhaps the approximately 6,800 screaming fans led to some of the breakdowns against Fort Wayne (6-2-1). However, team members said they did not feel the change in atmosphere was a legitimate excuse.
“When you don’t have communication, it’s a lot tougher game,” said Walleye center Byron Froese. “You have a lot less time to work with it feels like because you don’t know where your guy is coming from or where your guys are. It was definitely a big factor today is communication, but you can’t blame the game on that because the other team is in the same situation.”
Rookie net minder Kent Simpson made some spectacular saves despite the loss. When Toledo (4-5-1) had the lead in the third, Simpson was able to stop a puck while falling backwards and was able to cover up the rebound while sitting on the ground.
“It felt pretty good out there. I made some big saves to keep us in there, but it’s always disappointing when you can’t close out on a win like that,” Simpson said.
Perhaps one of the key breakdowns came during a faceoff in the Walleye zone with 7:36 left in regulation and the game tied 2-2. A missed assignment allowed Komets attacker Stephon Thome to take the faceoff from Jean-Michel Rizk and get it past Simpson for the go-ahead goal.
What has been the story all season for Toledo has been the lack of execution on power plays. The Walleye failed to convert on any of their four one-man advantages – all of them coming in the second period.
Head coach Nick Vitucci described the power play Nov. 7 as “disappointing.” He added that while the team is getting some looks and opportunities on the attack, that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets.
“We had opportunities but didn’t finish on them,” Vitucci said. “Obviously you want results, especially how hard we are pressing on the power play. We’re reaching and searching for right combinations of it.”
Fort Wayne struck first, almost 13 minutes into the game, when Daniel Maggio sent a pass in front of the net to Rizk, who then made a quick move to cause an opening past Simpson.
The Walleye answered back less than three minutes later on Luke Glendening’s fourth goal of the season. Defensemen Phil Rauch and Phil Oreskovic were credited with the assists.
After a scoreless second period that saw the Walleye on the power play for more than a third of the period, Froese fired a wrist shot seven minutes into the final period while coming straight at the goaltender. The shot rung off the left post and in to give Toledo its first lead of the day.
The advantage was short-lived, however, as Komets left winger Josh Brittain crashed the net on a breakaway and knotted the game up at two. Thome’s goal off the faceoff came 56 seconds later.
Walleye forward Andrej Nestrasil’s pass was intercepted by Brett Smith, who sealed Toledo’s fate with an empty net goal with just over a minute left to play.
The Walleye have a day off Nov. 8, but have three straight games this weekend.
The action starts with a road game Nov. 9 when they travel to Wheeling to face the Nailers. On Nov. 10, it will be the Walleyes’ turn to host Wheeling with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:05 p.m. The weekend concludes with Toledo hosting the South Carolina Sting Rays on Nov. 11. The puck is scheduled to drop at 5:05 p.m.