Reading outplays Walleye 3-1Written by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After coming off an emotional 4-1 victory in Kalamazoo on March 22, the Toledo Walleye (35-25-9) needed just a point to clinch a playoff spot for the second time in team history.
That celebration is on hold for at least another night as Toledo fell to the Reading Royals 3-1 on March 23.
Reading controlled the pace of the game early in the period and, despite not scoring in the first, outshot the Walleye 13-2.
“I just thought almost like we were in quicksand, the first two or three strides, we just didn’t have that zip to it and we lost a lot of opportunities to maybe play a little more physical because of it,” said Toledo head coach Nick Vitucci.
Toledo finished the night with 16 shots on goal, a new low for the season.
“They played us well; they knew pretty much everything we were doing. As soon as we turned over the puck, they were transitioning into our zone and putting pucks on our net,” said Walleye forward Willie Coetzee, who scored Toledo’s only goal.
Things got chippy between the two teams after Cody Lampl was assessed a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.
From that point on, 12 penalties were assessed, including two fights, one between Joey Ryan and Alex Berry in the second period and a scrap between Stephon Thorne and Bobby Shea late in the third frame.
“Lots on the line, guys are getting into playoff mode and that’s playoff hockey. It’s chippiness, it’s getting under each other’s skin, it’s getting in each other’s faces and just playing the chippy, grinding style,” Vitucci said.
Despite being outworked for most of the game, Toledo showed some life after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty sent Royals forward Nikita Kashirsky to the sin bin with 4:54 left in regulation.
Fifteen seconds later, Coetzee banged in a shot from the point that got past a screened Riley Gill.
The brawl between Thorne and former Bowling Green State University player Shae occurred a minute later and sparked some life in the 8,000 people in attendance.
The Walleye had another power play chance late in regulation when Berry was called for a delay of game penalty with 84 seconds left to play.
The Royals won a faceoff deep in their territory and were able to clear the puck and allow the final seconds to expire.
Reading struck first off a turnover deep in Toledo’s zone 3:30 into the middle period. Kashirsky’s shot beat Kent Simpson with assists coming from Stanislav Galiev and Yannick Tifu.
The Royals tacked on to their lead after a five-minute penalty assessed to Cody Lampl left Toledo short a man. Just 13 seconds into the advantage, Reading lit the lamp on Tifu’s 27th goal of the year. Mark Mitera and Kashirsky assisted the goal.
Reading notched another goal on Kashirsky’s second of the night almost three minutes into the final period. His unassisted goal came off a snapshot from the left faceoff circle.
The Walleye still have not clinched a playoff spot, as the Kalamazoo Wings won in Evansville, Ind., against the IceMen 5-2 on March 23.
The Wings host the Nailers and the Walleye have a rematch with Reading on March 24.
All Toledo needs is either a win, an overtime loss or a Kalamazoo loss to make the postseason.
Vitucci said his team needs to come out with “almost a kamikaze style out there where we just need to be hungry and track pucks and be physical, aggressive and want it more than they.”
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 24 at the Huntington Center.
Tags: Toledo Walleye