Walleye drop fourth straight, fall to eighth in conferenceWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
Playoff hopes for the Toledo Walleye (31-23-9) are diminishing after dropping their fourth straight with a 4-1 loss to the Greenville Road Warriors on March 13.
“I’m at a loss right now; it’s tough when you’re soul-searching,” said head coach Nick Vitucci. “I think our team is going through that with confidence and as high as you are when things are going well for you, maybe you get even further down low when they’re not going for you and that’s where we’re at as a team.”
The loss breaks a tie between the two teams as Greenville moved to seventh and Toledo down to eighth place in the conference.
The Kalamazoo Wings (31-26-5) are four points behind the Walleye for the final playoff spot with nine games remaining in the regular season.
“When you’re in the playoff push and every game is important and you’re trying to pick up two points, every game is huge,” said Walleye defenseman Ben Youds. “I think the biggest thing is competing. Once you’re in the end of the season, the level everybody plays at is higher so everybody has to bring their level of play up a bit and I think if everybody does that we’ll be fine.”
The Walleye scored early in the first period, but then allowed four unanswered by the Road Warriors (33-24-7).
“We wanted to come out and set the tone in the first period and overcome this confidence problem that we’re having and we talked about it,” Vitucci said. “I thought we did a good job in the first period with that and then a bad break deflates you.”
After Toledo killed off a Greenville two-man advantage in the second period, Ryan Flanigan scored on a charge to the net and his shot hit and went over goalie Jordan Pearce’s stick.
“You kill off a 5-on-3 and that’s huge, normally it’s a big momentum shift and like I said that goal was a little flukey, but it was one of those deals,” Youds said.
The Road Warriors scored again 1:16 later when Jordie Johnston fired a shot past Pearce and to the twine to make it 3-1.
“It seems like one or two goals that are going by us every game that we’d like to have back whether it was goaltending or bad pinch or just one little bad play or unlucky play that is ending up in our net and right now confidence-wise we’re not overcoming that,” Vitucci said.
Toledo got the game’s first goal when Youds scored past Scott Stajcer at the 3:45 mark of the first period. Forward Willie Coetzee passed the puck from the left faceoff circle through traffic to Youds, who buried the shot on the goalie’s right side.
Tonight was Youds’ first game back with Toledo after being sent down from the Rockford IceHogs on March 12. It was his fifth of the season with the Walleye.
The Road Warriors responded 2:28 later on Brandon Wong’s 24th goal of the season. Matt Lowry threw the puck in front of the net and Wong redirected it over Pearce’s shoulder and to the twine.
Lee Baldwin scored the final tally with 53 seconds left in regulation when he sailed the puck from his own blue line to an empty net.
The Walleye travel to Wheeling, Pa., to begin a three-game stand against the Nailers (27-24-11), who are 10th in the conference and six points behind Toledo.
“This is a two-out-of-three playoff series for us that we have to hopefully sweep if we can,” Vitucci said.
Wheeling is 4-1-2 in its last seven games, after losing 7-1 against the Reading Royals on March 13.
The first of the three games will be in Wheeling, but the action will return to the Huntington Center March 16-17.
Tags: Toledo Walleye