Walleye stay hot, top Florida 4-2Written by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
Despite facing the defending Kelly Cup champs, the Toledo Walleye looked solid as they extended their winning streaks, defeating the Florida Everblades 4-2 on Dec. 16.
“We feel good obviously, about the whole week and about this game as well,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci. “[Florida is] a very good team. They transition well, they’re very strong on the puck and they are a very puck-possession team. It challenged us defensively behind our blue line and I thought we answered the bell.”
Toledo extended its win streak to three games with the win. Vitucci said confidence has been a big part of why Toledo’s been playing well as of late.
“When you’re playing with confidence, when you’re tied or you’re down a few goals, you believe and honestly believe you can come back,” he said. “When you’re not playing with confidence, you could have a one-goal or two-goal lead and in the back of your mind, you’re just waiting for the other shoe to fall off. ‘How are we going to lose this?’ Right now our mindset is, ‘We’re going to come back and win this.’ And that’s a good place to be.”
For Toledo, there seems to be no place like home for the holidays. The team has won five straight at the Huntington Center and, with a 9-5-0 record at home, have the second-most home wins in the ECHL.
Toledo’s defense held the Everblades to 20 shots on net during the game. But that didn’t mean goalie Jordan Pearce had the night off. He still had some work to do between the pipes as he earned his second win in as many nights.
Florida had several key scoring chances late in the first period, such as when Taylor Ellington fired a wrist shot from the right side that Pearce was able to trap in his body and keep covered until the referees stopped play.
“[Pearce] challenges so well and makes himself so big by challenging that really good scoring chances look like routine saves because of the position he gets himself in and he sees the puck really well,” Vitucci said.
For the third straight game, the Walleye have scored multiple goals in the third period of play. The last time Toledo was held scoreless in the final 20 minutes was Dec. 1 against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
“I think with any good team, the third period has to be their best,” said forward Max Campbell, who scored the game-winning goal. “In close games when you’re behind, you have to score a couple of goals to catch up or if it’s a close game, you have to put them away.”
The Walleye scored first on a perfectly run tic-tac-toe play between forwards Joey Martin, Kyle Rogers and Willie Coetzee with 12:21 left in the period.
Toledo almost made it 2-0 with 10:26 left in the opening period when forward Philippe Paradis had a great look at the net and fired it to the twine. The goal was waved off, however, due to an interference on the goaltender penalty called on Travis Novak.
Florida tied it up at one just under three minutes into the period after the Walleye turned the puck over in their own zone. Ellington took the puck and passed it to Mathieu Roy in the slot, who directed the puck to the twine. It was Roy’s 10th goal of the season.
The Walleye responded 13 seconds later on a Terry Broadhurst goal to make it 2-1. Forwards Luke Glendening and Andrej Nestrasil assisted on the play.
Nestrasil’s assist extended his streak to eight consecutive games with a point.
Florida equalized the score with 10:48 left in the second when A.J. Jenks took a cross pass from David Rutherford and just beat a sliding Pearce with his shot.
Toledo took the lead on a soft shot by Max Campbell that Muse misjudged to make it 3-2 with 12:15 left in regulation.
“I don’t know how it got by him, but like they say, just throw it at the net, you never know what will happen,” Campbell said. “It worked out and I was fortunate enough to have it go in.”
Coetzee added some insurance after he fired a shot high on Muse that lit the lamp with 7:08 left in regulation. Martin and Rogers assisted on the play.
He has now scored a goal in five consecutive games.
Coetzee’s goal puts him at 14 on the year and ties him for the team lead with Glendening.
Vitucci said the game was a good opportunity for the Walleye to see where they are in terms of other playoff-hungry teams in the Eastern Conference.
“Florida is the defending champions and they’ve been on a big roll here as of late,” he said. “So, it was nice to play them for the first time this season and see how we do measure up against them and obviously with a win like this, we measure up pretty well.”
The Walleye have another tall order to meet next weekend when they travel to Greenville, S.C., to face the Road Warriors on Dec. 21 and 22.
The Road Warriors are playing hot as well; they have a four-game win streak of their own and are tied for second-most goals scored in the conference at 96.
Greenville is fourth in the Eastern Conference despite having three more points than the Walleye. The division leaders claim the first three spots in the conference standings.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. Dec. 21.
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