Walleye cannot complete weekend sweep, lose 3-2 to WheelingWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
The Toledo Walleye (33-24-9) allowed three unanswered goals and let a third period lead slip as they could not complete the weekend sweep against the Wheeling Nailers and fell 3-2 on March 17.
After the Walleye scored two goals in the first period, the Nailers (27-27-11) scored the last three despite Toledo outshooting Wheeling 44-18.
The tying and winning goals were scored with 33 seconds near the halfway point of the final stanza.
The Walleye had two opportunities late to tie Wheeling; the first coming on a double-minor penalty assessed to Nailers forward Zack Torquato with 7:34 left in the third period.
Despite having the extra man for four minutes, Toledo could only muster two shots on Scott Darling, who finished the game with 42 saves.
With 2:30 left in regulation, Nailers forward Todd Orlando was called for interference and the Walleye again failed to light the lamp on the power play.
The final man-advantage, however, saw more shots on goal for Toledo and in the final minute, it looked as if Kyle Rogers poked a puck past Darling.
The play was whistled dead before the puck broke the plane.
“The four minuter, I felt like we didn’t generate a ton,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci. “We threw everything but the kitchen sink on the last power play right to the buzzer. I think Kyle Rogers knocked one at the net that bounced off his legs and was right in the goal crease. We just couldn’t get a stick on it.”
The Walleye scored their first goal with 14:15 left in the opening period when Randy Rowe scored off a Trevor Parkes shot. Wes O’Neill also assisted on the play.
The goal was Rowe’s 250th professional goal of his career.
“It feels good but at the same time, a championship would have been better,” he said. “I don’t care if I have zero goals or 1,000 goals, it’d just be nice to win a championship; it’s nice to be able to produce for a team.”
Toledo struck again to make it 2-0 with 7:29 left in the first on a Rogers power play goal. After Forward Cam Fergus was called for holding, Rogers buried a puck from in front of the net past Darling.
Wheeling cut the deficit to one on a Chris Barton power play goal at the 9 minute mark. After Torquato’s first shot from the right wing did not get through, Barton buried the loose puck past Kent Simpson, who finished the night with 15 saves.
The second period saw the game get chippy as 10 penalties were assessed two fights break out.
Toledo forward Stephon Thorne who finished the game with two fights and 10 penalty minutes, the most of anyone on the ice, picked one with 11:55 left in the second period and eventually tossed Todd Orlando to the ice near the boards behind Toledo’s goal.
“You play the same team three times in three nights and they are going to get chippy,” Vitucci said. “Guys are tired of each other, they’re sick of each other, they’re sick of listening to each other; they’re going to react in an aggressive way. That’s hockey, that’s sports, that’s competitive sports.”
The Nailers tied the game with 11:27 left in the third period when Torquato’s shot from the blue line found its way through traffic in the slot and past Simpson. The goal came off a faceoff in the offensive zone and 55 seconds after Novak was called for slashing.
Thirty-three seconds later, Matt Germain knocked a rebound out of midair past Simpson to give Wheeling the lead. Cam Fergus assisted on the play.
The Walleye took four of six from Wheeling after winning in West Virginia 5-2 March 15 and again last night 3-1, both games saw Toledo find the back of the net in the final period of play.
The loss keeps Toledo in eighth place in the ECHL Eastern Conference, trailing two points behind the Elmira Jackals, who won 3-2 against the Trenton Titans.
The Walleye increased some space between themselves and ninth place Kalamazoo Wings this weekend.
Kalamazoo has lost two straight games, including a 9-2 defeat against the Greenville Road Warriors March 17.
“It doesn’t matter what happens with Kalamazoo, we’re the Toledo Walleye; we’ve got to figure it out on our own,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t make a difference, we have to worry about ourselves the last couple of weeks of the regular season. It doesn’t what other teams do. We have a goal and we want to get to the playoffs; whatever it takes, we have to work on it.”
The Walleye host the Evansville IceMen, a team that is mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, March 20 at 7 p.m.
Following Wednesday’s game, Toledo travels to Kalamzoo March 22 before hosting the playoff bound Reading Royals March 23-24 for their home finale.
“Coming off this weekend, I’m happy where we’re at, especially where we were a week ago and we got a positive weekend we can move forward to Wednesday’s game with thoughts and how we’re playing right now,” Vitucci said.