Walleye hold on despite late rally, claim first in divisionWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
The Toledo Walleye saw a three goal lead almost vanish, but were able to hold off the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-3 in an aggressive game on Dec. 1.
“That was a fun game and that’s what you’d expect from two teams battling for first place,” said head coach Nick Vitucci. “It was aggressive, it was chippy, it was mean at times but it was exciting. As a coach, I want that out of my team. I’m sure Jarrod Skalde wants that out of his team. We want that out of our hockey clubs. It was a great game to just witness as well.”
Following last night’s come-from-behind victory against the Kalamazoo Wings, the Walleye were almost on the opposite end of things, watching a 4-1 lead become just a one-goal advantage with under nine minutes left in regulation.
“That’s where you have to bear down and go back to what you’ve done to get there; whether it’s getting the pucks deep, being physical, doing the little things right,” said forward Luke Glendening. “If you start to get away from your game plan, you’ll lose a lot of one-goal games. But if you stick to what got you there, you’ll be alright.”
In a battle for control of the North Division, the Walleye and Cyclones committed a total of 17 penalties between both teams, 10 of them coming in the first period.
Of the 17 penalties, the 6,153 fans at the Huntington Center saw two fights from defenseman Phil Rauch and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, one against Walleye forward Andrej Nestrasil and the other on Cincinnati right winger Mathieu Aubin.
“When you’re playing for first and second place, you expect games to be like that. It’s going to be nasty,” said Walleye forward Terry Broadhurst. “Guys want to win, they’re going to do what it takes to try to get in your head, play dirty and try to get you off your game. That’s just to be expected and I thought we did a good job sticking up for ourselves.”
The Toledo offensive line that consisted of Glendening, Broadhurst and Travis Novak played with solid chemistry and contributed six points (3 goals, 3 assists).
“It just comes down to hard work and being good down in our own zone,” Glendening said. “You’re not always going to score goals. You hope you will, but it’s not always guaranteed. It starts off with being good in our own zone, forechecking and backchecking and then see what happens.”
Every Walleye forward and defensemen recorded at least one of the 38 shots on Cyclones netminder Magnus Hellberg.
The Walleye struck first blood two minutes into regulation when Novak fired a shot from the slot to the net to make it 1-0. It was Novak’s first of the season and Glendening and Broadhurst were credited with assists.
“We came out with good energy and good speed, that’s something we talked about before the game,” Broadhurst said. “They had a big win last night and we kind of wanted to make sure we were ready.”
Broadhurst got a goal of his own about 3:30 later when he scored on a give-and-go play between him and Novak to make it 2-0. Defenseman Ben Youds also assisted on the play.
“Ben Youds recognized they were making a change on my side and he gave it to Novak and with his speed, he’s usually able to beat that guy wide and he made a nice pass and I was able to finish it off,” Broadhurst said.
Cincinnati got on the board with 6:36 left in the opening period on a power play goal scored by right winger Mathieu Aubin. Defenseman Brian O’Hanley and forward Garret Wilson assisted on the goal.
The Walleye added to their lead with 10:45 left in the middle period when Kyle Rogers sent a quick cross pass to Andrej Nestrasil who finished the job to make it 3-1. It was Nestrasil’s seventh goal of the season.
The Walleye scored again late in the second after forcing a turnover and in transition, Nestrasil passed it to Glendening, who fired a shot over Hellberg’s glove to make it 4-1.
The third period was all Cincinnati and they started early when Josh Shalla fired a loose puck past Simpson to cut it to 4-2 with 17:21 left in regulation.
They scored again with 9:18 left on a Mattias Lindstrom shot after Simpson stopped the initial shot from Francois Bouchard.
After that, the Walleye held Cincinnati’s high pressure play down to the last seconds. The Cyclones pulled Hellberg with 1:01 left in regulation for the extra attacker and kept the puck in the Walleye zone except for when Kyle Rogers almost sealed the deal from the neutral zone, but the puck sailed left of the empty net.
The win pushes the Walleye’s hot streak to four consecutive wins and nine victories in their past 11 games.
Toledo now holds a one point advantage over the Cyclones for first place with 27 points.
Tonight also marks Vitucci’s 500th regular season game as Toledo’s head coach. Since 2003, Vitucci is 237-203-40 and has made postseason appearances four times.
“I’ve really been blessed,” he said. “I think the common thing that’s gone along through all the years and through 500 games is our great fan base. We got loyal hockey fans from one organization to another. It’s an honor and a thrill to come to work in front of all of these people and working with such great people.”
Toledo completes their three-in-three tomorrow in Evansville against the IceMen. Opening faceoff is slated for 5 p.m. Central Standard Time.