Walleye score three third-period goals, snap losing streakWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
The Toledo Walleye scored three goals in the final period to snap a three-game losing streak as they defeated the Wheeling Nailers 5-2 on Dec. 12.
Over a span of 4:51, Toledo scored all its third period goals on as many shots.
“It was nice we got some bounces in our favor,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci. “It was nice to get the win under our belts and end the losing streak, get a different mindset and look forward to the weekend.”
Forward Max Campbell scored two of the five goals. The goals were his sixth and seventh of the year.
Campbell almost picked up the hat trick late in the third, but Nailers goaltender Scott Darling got just enough of his shoulder to send it wide right.
“A couple of nice plays by [defenseman Wes O’Neill] and [defenseman Ben Youds] set me up. I pretty much just had to shoot those,” Campbell said. “The third one would’ve been nice to get, but a win’s a win.”
O’Neill also scored two goals, bringing his total to nine on the year.
Through just 25 games, O’Neill has more than doubled the number of goals scored in the first five years of his pro career. The most he scored in a pro season was four in the 2010-11 season with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“I’ve never been a goal scorer and I don’t plan on becoming one,” O’Neill said. “When I shoot, I shoot. I’d rather score no points and have the team win than worry about getting a goal.”
The Notre Dame alum’s second goal had a bit of the luck of the Irish behind it as he fired the puck from in front of the blue line right of the goal, but it deflected off Wheeling forward Luke Pither’s shin pad and into the net.
“I was just trying to get a pass to a screen up top,” he said. “I was just trying to get it through. When you’re lucky, you’re lucky sometimes. It went off his shin pad and beat the goalie.”
Despite Toledo scoring five goals, Vitucci said he was not impressed with how flat the team played in the first two periods.
“The first two periods weren’t very good. There’s no getting around it,” he said.
O’Neill said part of the problem was a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone and players trying to do too much and not play simple hockey.
The Walleye were, however, able to “hang around” and keep it tied going into the third period, Vitucci said.
“I think at times, you look at good hockey teams that aren’t playing their best but they’re just hanging around,” Vitucci said. “We’ve seen Kalamazoo do that for years. They just hang around and hang around and then they take advantage of opportunities late in the game. I think we’re a good hockey club and we just hung around for 40 minutes and we were finally able to get things going our way.”
The Nailers scored first just eight minutes into the game on a power play goal set up by an interference call on Phil Rauch. Pither’s deflected shot bounced past Kent Simpson. Andrew Hotham and Cody Wild assisted on the play.
Toledo answered just under two minutes later when Andrej Nestrasil carried the puck down the right side, stepped backward, cut to his left, then sent a pass from the left faceoff circle to O’Neill, who beat Darling high on a slap shot. Terry Broadhurst also assisted on the goal.
After a mouth guard violation sent Hotham to the sin bin, Toledo capitalized 47 seconds later when Campbell fired a shot past Darling to make it 2-1. Youds and O’Neill assisted the play.
All players in the ECHL must wear a mouth guard at all times and, in addition to the penalty, Hotham is also subject to a $100 fine, according to the ECHL rule book.
The lead did not last long, however, as Wheeling evened the score just 48 seconds later. Pither scored his second goal of the night, this time beating Simpson with a wrist shot. Forwards Joe Stejskal and Matt Germain were credited with assists.
The third period was all Toledo when Willie Coetzee fired a shot to the top shelf to make it 3-2 with 10:08 left in regulation. Kyle Rogers and Joey Martin were on the assist.
The Walleye added to the lead just under two minutes later when Youds carried the puck from around his own blue line down the right side of the rink and all the way behind Wheeling’s net. He then dropped the puck back to Campbell who beat Darling’s stick to make it 4-2.
With the 5-2 win, Toledo snapped a three-game losing streak as well as extended its home win streak to three games.
“The last three games, when things aren’t going well for us then you begin to wonder if you’re ever going to win a hockey game,” Vitucci said. “It was nice that we were able to pick it up and find a way to win a hockey game because we’ve been finding ways to lose hockey games as of late.”
The Walleye return to action on Dec. 15 when they host the Evansville IceMen. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:05 p.m.
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