Walleye come from behind to beat Wheeling 5-2Written by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
Despite giving up two early goals, the Toledo Walleye came back with four goals in the final period to take a 5-2 win against the Wheeling Nailers on Feb. 22.
Toledo head coach Nick Vitucci said these come-from-behind victories are “business as usual.”
“We’ve been in this position so often where we’ve been down a goal or two and we get into the latter part of the game and it doesn’t faze us. We believe we’ve got what it takes to overcome any deficit and we’ve had so much third-period success.”
Leading the offensive charge for the Walleye was captain Kyle Rogers, who scored two goals within a 27-second span in the third to tie the game and give Toledo its first lead of the game.
“They took it to us in the first period and we came into the room and we accepted that they were here to play and we might have been on our heels a little bit,” Rogers said. “Every period we got better.”
Walleye netminder Jordan Pearce, who finished the night with 19 saves, gave up two first-period goals to forwards Zack Torquato and Matt Germain within a 1:40 span.
After that, he came up with some crucial saves, such as early in the third period when he stopped a skipping puck from getting past him late in the game.
“We expect that out of Jordan. It wasn’t like the goals were fluky; they just had bad bounces and a bad break,” Vitucci said. “But Jordan has the perfect demeanor for a goaltender where he doesn’t let much rattle him and erased those two goals and was cool as a cucumber afterwards.”
Pearce got a little help from his defense. After giving up 10 shots on goal in the first period, the Nailers were held to just 11 shots on Pearce for the rest of the game.
Momentum shifted the rest of the game with 7:21 left in the opening period when 6-foot Walleye forward Stephan Thorne picked a fight against 6-foot 4-inch Adam Ross.
“You look for different sparks – you look for the big hit, you look for the big goal, you look for the big save – something to get your team up and excited,” Vitucci said. “Those are pivotal turning points in games and I thought that was the one today.”
After that, the energy picked up on the Walleye bench and, on the next shift, forward Nino Musitelli scored the team’s first goal.
Wheeling struck first seven minutes into the game after Torquato redirected the puck past Pearce. The goal was initially under review, but referees declared it a goal. Chris Barton helped set up the play.
The Nailers scored again on their next shot. The goal was Germain’s fifth of the year and forward Cam Fergus assisted on the play.
Toledo got on the board with 3:22 left in the opening period on Musitelli’s fourth goal of the season and second in as many games.
Musitelli, who was screening the goalie, knocked down a Pat Knowlton shot, cut across the net and shot the puck as he fell down
With a little help from Nailers defenseman Tim Corcoran, the puck sailed over the goalie’s pads. Forward Tyler Brenner also assisted on the play.
Rogers scored his first goal after Coetzee ran a button hook just past center ice and found the captain coming toward the blue line. The captain’s shot banked off the crossbar before finding the back of the net.
Toledo took the lead 27 seconds later when Rogers’ shot deflected off a defenseman and into the top corner.
“I believe it was Willie that passed it to me as he was driving wide and just put the puck on net and I think it got deflected in the top corner,” he said.
Coetzee scored on an empty net with 42.2 seconds left in regulation to make the score 4-2.
Even though he was on the ice for the empty netter, Rogers said he told the two other forwards to just bury the puck and not make a risky play.
“You take that risk to get the puck to me wide and something happens, it’s a turnover, it’s back to a tie game and we really didn’t need that at the end,” he said.
Byron Froese tacked on one more when Toledo carried the puck on an odd-man rush as time was diminishing. After a couple of quick passes, Froese finished it off with 2 seconds left in regulation. Thorne and Travis Novak assisted.
The Walleye return to the ice Feb. 23 when they host the Fort Wayne Komets. Toledo has had the Komets’ number for the season, outscoring their division foe 36-23 on the season.
The puck is scheduled to drop in the Huntington Center at 7:05 p.m. Feb. 23.