Walleye season extended in double overtime thrillerWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
CINCINNATI – It took 81:41 of hockey but the Toledo Walleye extend their season to tomorrow with a 3-2 double overtime victory April 12 against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Walleye captain Kyle Rogers fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle past rookie netminder Michael Houser 4: 41 into the second overtime period to end a game that lasted almost 3:30.
Toledo goalie Jordan Pearce made his first start of the playoffs and finished the night with 33 saves.
With one mistake potentially ending Toledo’s season, Pearce said his focus was not on the pressure of the game, just taking it one shot at a time.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game, especially going into the third,” he said.
Houser continued his exceptional play in game 4, making 42 saves in 81:41 of work.
The Walleye gave up a go-ahead goal late in the second period and Vitucci said he was worried it would deflate the energy of the game, which at the time was heavily in the Cyclones’ favor.
The Walleye responded with a high-energy third period and outshot Cincinnati 15-5 in the third frame.
“I was worried about that; they carry over, but we came out hard,” Vitucci said. “I was happy that that just didn’t bury us mentally and we came out hard.”
The Walleye struck first with 5:49 left in the first period when forward Willie Coetzee stole the puck behind Cincinnati’s goal and passed it to defenseman Cody Lampl, whose shot from the point beat a screened Houser.
The assist was Coetzee’s first point of the playoff series. He was Toledo’s most productive player during the regular season, collecting 68 points (28 G, 40 A).
Cincinnati tied the game at one 3:36 into the second period when Mathieu Aubin’s snapshot from the high slot hit off the post and beat Pearce. Defenseman Chris Reed and winger David Pacan set up the play.
The Cyclones took the lead with 22.6 seconds remaining in the middle period when Mike Embach and Pacan led an odd-man rush against Pearce. Embach faked Pearce out, moved around him and scored his third goal of the series.
“The guy made a great play,” Pearce said. “It was a two-on-one late and that had a lot of speed and I half anticipated a shot and he made a good move and got around me.”
Travis Novak tipped in a puck past Houser with 13:14 left in the third stanza to tie the game at two. Forward Aaron Bogosian threw the puck to Novak from the point.
The next 53 minutes turned into a boxing match between the two clubs as both teams went back-and-forth with scoring chances; but the goalies kept their teams in the game.
“Teams are exhausted and there’s some missed assignments and then there are glorious scoring chances and usually it’s goalies who come up huge at that time and both goaltenders came up huge,” Vitucci said.
The closest either team got to scoring came with 1:40 left to play in regulation when a puck thrown across the crease hit winger the heel of Trevor Parkes’ stick, redirecting it toward an open goal.
The puck was stopped on the goal line by Houser, never breaking the plane and keeping the score tied at 2.
A shot by Embach from the left wing went past a motionless Pearce and rang off the right goal post, deflected off to the side with 4:50 left in the first overtime period.
Just over a minute later, Toledo winger Joey Martin intercepted a pass at the Cyclones’ blue line and ended up alone with Houser but again, the Youngstown native slammed the door shut.
Rogers’ goal came off a pass from Lampl and was the captain’s first goal of the postseason.
One key for the Walleye to extend their season is going to be disrupting Cincinnati’s offense, which used its size and talent to cycle the puck in the offensive zone, keeping Toledo on defense.
Vitucci said the best way to play defense is to prevent their players from getting into “glorious scoring opportunities” in the middle of the ice.
“We’re fine with them keeping the pucks to the wall because they’re not going to beat us there; but when we miss assignments and now that puck goes from the wall to a glorious scoring opportunity,” he said. “It’s obviously pretty dangerous.”
The overtime victory was Toledo’s first win past regulation since Nov. 30, when they defeated the Kalamazoo Wings at the Huntington Center. Since then, the Walleye lost nine straight overtime decisions, including the double overtime loss in game 1 of the playoff series.
Game 5 is slated for April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in U.S. Bank Arena.