Walleye’s season ends in heart-breaking overtime lossWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
In the closing seconds of Game 6, it appeared as if the Toledo Walleye were about to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and force a decisive Game 7 in Cincinnati against the Cyclones.
Then with five seconds left in regulation, Garrett Wilson shoots a desperation shot from behind the net off of Toledo defenseman Max Nicastro and into the net to tie the game 3-3.
Three minutes into overtime, Cincinnati captain Mathieu Aubin forces a puck past goaltender Jordan Pearce, clinching a spot in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs and ending the Walleye’s season.
With Game 7 in reach, three “lady-luck goals” gave Cincinnati just enough to hold off the Walleye.
“It’s hard to swallow,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci. “You don’t practice that as a team, you don’t work on those type of offensive plays, they just sort of fall on your lap; unfortunately, they passed through our lap and went in the net tonight.
“It’s frustrating, disappointing, but that’s part of the game. It’s what makes this game so great is that anything can happen on any given night and any kind of goal can win or lose a series for you.”
Two of those three goals came off shots from behind the net that deflected off a Walleye.
With 3:38 left in the second frame, Cincinnati forward Michael Pelech tied the game 1-1 when he shot the puck off Pearce’s leg bad – while the netminder was lying on his back – just breaking the plane.
The Walleye were in control for most of the game, out-shooting their ECHL North Division rival 41-37.
Toledo’s special teams continued to play strong as it did in Game 5. Tonight, Toledo went 2-for-6 on the power play and the penalty kill units were 3-for-3.
“You always want to go out fighting,” Pearce said. “Honestly, it was a tough situation but when you’re back’s against the wall, you have nothing left to do but go out there and play as hard as you can … we almost forced a Game 7.”
Toledo drew first blood with 26 seconds left in the first period when forward Trevor Parkes beat Michael Houser with a shot that went over the glove.
Houser, who was covering the entire lower half of the net, gave Parkes the only option to lift the puck to the top shelf.
Forwards Joey Martin and Adam Hobson picked up assists on the goal.
“It was great forechecking on my line,” Parkes said. “[Martin] found me with a great pass, all I had to do was get it up over the goalie. He really didn’t see it. it was a great play by my linemates. It was a nice goal to get the guys started. It felt great to get the building going early.”
Toledo took a 2-1 lead temporarily in the third period when Andrej Nestrasil’s one-timer got past Houser with 17:10 left in regulation.
Cincinnati equalized the score 22 seconds later, capitalizing on a turnover in Toledo’s defensive zone. David Pacan held the puck and baited Pearce until he was caught out of position, then hit an easy shot. Trevor Lewis picked up an assist on the play.
The Walleye regained the lead on their second power play goal of the period. Joey Martin knocked in a rebound from a shot from the point by Byron Froese. Parkes redirected the rebound to Martin, who practically had the whole net to shoot at.
With a minute to play, the Cyclones pulled Houser for the extra attacker and kept the puck deep in Toledo’s defensive zone.
During a scramble in front of Pearce, the puck moved back behind the goal. There was a delayed penalty was called on Martin, most likely for boarding. Wilson came behind the net from the left side, picked up the loose puck and sent it off Nicastro’s leg.
“Sometimes the puck just has eyes and three-out-of-four of them you don’t even know they go in, but they go in,” Pearce said. “It’s unfortunate, ending our season that way.”
Parkes said if Toledo would have held on and won the game in regulation, there was “no doubt” the Walleye would win Game 7 and move on to the next round.
“Momentum comes if we would’ve come back from three straight; it would’ve been in our hands,” he said. “Tonight was in our hands. We had all the confidence, everything was going our way.”
The Cyclones face the Gwinnett Gladiators in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs with the series beginning April 19.
As for Toledo, Pearce said he hopes the team can learn from it going into next season.
“A lot of these young guys, hopefully they take it as a lesson and never give up and some of the older guys that are done, we had a great season,” he said. “It’s nothing to be disappointed about.”