Walleye come back from early deficit against Fort Wayne 6-3Written by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce said his inspiration for Feb. 17’s matchup against the Fort Wayne Komets was watching his head coach Nick Vitucci between the pipes before the game.
“I think [Vitucci] played great, he’s obviously a little challenged with his size, so he’s got to play a little more athletic, but he looked good in those pads and it inspired me to play well tonight,” said Pearce, who finished with 32 saves to help the Walleye (29-18-6) come from behind to beat the Komets 6-3.
After letting in an early goal, the Komets scored twice in a 20 second span.
Fort Wayne (26-26-2), however, was unable to get another goal past the goalie until late in third period when the game was already out of reach.
The Anchorage, Alaska native posted a shutout during the second period, stopping all 16 shots fired upon him.
“You need different people to step up at different times and Jordan Pearce stepped up for us,” Vitucci said. “A quality goaltender like Jordan Pearce, you hope he can give you a chance to win when things aren’t going well for your hockey club; he did that for two periods and allowed us to really get our talents going and our skills going in the third period.”
One example was with 13:38 left in the period when he flashed his glove to snag a redirected puck as he was going right.
Ten seconds later, Pearce stopped a shot from center Eric Giosa, this time using his body to stop a shot and then dove on the rebound to freeze play.
“I pride myself on being a little more athletic for a goalie,” he said. “There’s more and more you see big butterfly goalies and it works for them too, but for me it’s more enjoyable to see an athletic goalie in there make saves. You just got to go out and give it all you got and sometimes you come up lucky.”
Leading the way offensively for Toledo was forward Nino Musitelli, who had a goal and two assists against the Komets.
His goal came early in the third period when he took a shot from inside the left faceoff circle that got past goalie Charlie Effinger to give Toledo the 3-2 lead. Pat Knowlton and Stefan Thorne assisted on the play.
From there, Toledo did not look back, scoring another three straight goals throughout the third period.
“Bounces happen and you come together as a team in regroup,” Musitelli said. “It’s our job as a team to come together and make the game simple again and do what we got to do.”
Cody Lampl and the Walleye struck first after the defenseman fired a shot low past Effinger with 16:43 left in the first. Musitelli was credited with an assist.
Fort Wayne tied it at one with eight minutes left after left winger Matt Syroczynski took Colin Chaulk’s blocked shot and fired the puck from the slot, off the crossbar and broke the plane.
The Komets took the lead 20 seconds later on a Nick Wheeler goal. The defenseman fired a slap shot past Jordan Pearce. Garret Klotz and Brett Smith picked up assists on the play.
Toledo responded 1:11 later when Musitelli led an odd-man rush from the neutral zone down the right side; he then sent a pass in front of the net to Stephan Thorne and he finished the play to make it 2-2.
Just about halfway through the third, Randy Rowe tacked on some insurance when we scored from the side of the net to make it 4-2 Toledo. Forward Willie Coetzee moved the puck into the offensive zone but had it poked away.
Rowe was able to pick up the loose puck and dance around a defender and beat the goalie on the right side. Erik Spady also assisted on the play.
Ninety-eight seconds later, the Walleye lit the lamp again. This time Byron Froese led an odd-man rush and whistled a hard wrist shot over the pads of Effinger to make it 5-2. Joey Martin and Spady picked up the assists.
The Komets scored with 3:04 left in regulation when Brandon Marino got his 18th goal of the season Chaulk and Wheeler set up the play.
Toledo captain Kyle Rogers added one more to the cause when he fired scored from the point on an empty net with 1:10 left in the third. Wes O’Neill and Coetzee assisted Rogers.
The win caps off a week that saw the Walleye play four games in five nights.
Toledo took six points over the weekend, beginning with a 2-1 win against the Evansville IceMen on Feb. 13.
The Walleye then lost two overtime games against Kalamazoo in as many nights.
“Two points is something we had to get tonight regardless of how we got it, we needed to get the two points, it turned what could have been a very disappointing weekend into a pretty good weekend,” Vitucci said.
Prior to the matchup, the Toledo Alumni faced the Fort Wayne Old Timers and won in a shootout 8-7.
“We’re fortunate in this arena to have the bricks and mortar that allowed this arena to stand was built with blood and guts and effort and hard work from those people that were on the ice today,” Vitucci said. “They played like warriors in that old sports arena through so many eras of hockey. It’s a big reason why we’re enjoying the success of our franchise.”
Vitucci, who played in goal during the second period of the alumni game, said he hopes this is something that can occur more often.
“As fun as the game was, we had a blast yesterday morning at practice,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we have a long history of hockey here in the city and fortunate that so many people are still around that we can enjoy each other’s company too.
“It was like a family in there, with all the different generations. After two minutes, everybody was everybody’s best friend. What a thrill it is for the families, the children, the grandchildren of all these people who never had an opportunity to see them play as well. I think that’s just as special as the whole event.”
The Walleye return to the ice Feb. 22 when they host the Wheeling Nailers.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:05 p.m.