While they needed extra time to do it, the Toledo Walleye earned a much-needed win on Saturday night at home, defeating the Kalamazoo Wings 3-2. Toledo’s power play, which as struggled greatly this season, came up big, accounting for all three of their goals in the contest.
The sold-out crowd saw a game that began similarly to many others this season as the Walleye built a two-goal deficit through the first two periods.
Kalamazoo struck early in the first period, crashing the net to knock down Walleye goaltender Scott Campbell, then putting the puck in the net on a shot by Darryl Lloyd. Wings’ center Kory Karlander added his fifth goal of the year at 5:21 in the second to increase Kalamazoo’s lead.
The Walleye gave the Wings several power-play chances of their own, including midway through the second when Kalamazoo got the man advantage following a faux fight between Toledo’s Scott Fletcher and Kalamazoo’s Wes O’Neill.
Head coach Nick Vitucci urged his players to “keep grinding” going into the third period down two scores. “I told them that we have to re-establish a team that’s not going put ourselves in a position to lose games. We’ve got to find a way to win them.”
Vitucci’s words hit the spot as Toledo’s power play that erupted late in the game to tie the game and earn the win. Defenseman Ryan Stokes sent a beautiful pass to Zach Turquato early in the third for a power-play goal to make it 2-1 Kalamazoo.
K-Wings goaltender Ryan Nie was beat again minutes later on the man advantage when Sebastien Piche sent a slapper towards the net. Randy Rowe deflected it in to tie the game and force overtime.
The Walleye rallied in the extra session, again using their power-play unit as the difference maker. Evan Rankin, coming off a hat-trick night on Friday, pounded away at Nie, connecting on a rebound to score the game winner.
Though it took almost a month to show good results, Vitucci never gave up on the team’s power-play unit, advising his skaters to be persistent and good things will happen.
“We’ve been creating opportunities. We’ve been creating momentum off of it. We just haven’t been scoring. We’ve been telling them ‘just stick with it’ and you’ll be rewarded, and three for six tonight, it was good.”
On The Hook: Just two home games remain for the Walleye in November, with eight road games on the slate as well. The Fish return to the ice this Wednesday when they visit the Cincinnati Cyclones. They’ll be back home against Cincinnati on Friday.