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Two rookies recorded their first points as professionals, and goalie Thomas McCollum made those stand up as the Toledo Walleye captured their first win of the season last night.
Defenseman Phil Rauch, a Lambertville, native, scored the game-winner and also won a fight as Toledo skated off with a 3-2 win over South Carolina before 5,263 spectators at the Huntington Center.
"It was awesome, especially because we got that first win under our belt," Rauch said. "You can't beat getting the win for the guys, especially a Saturday night game at home. We really gelled tonight."
Rookie forward Paul Zanette also posted his first point as a pro, while Evan Rankin had a goal and an assist.
After giving up five goals in his season debut last weekend, McCollum was strong throughout. He finished with 37 saves to help Toledo improve to 1-2-0.
McCollum said he took responsibility for a 5-1 season-opening loss to Chicago.
"I was motivated after last weekend," he said. "I wasn't pleased with my performance. I wanted to make it up to the team and the fans. I felt really good, and the guys in front of me did an incredible job. It's huge to get a win. We were fired up tonight."
Toledo stopped all four of South Carolina's power-play chances.
"The win is the biggest thing," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. "It feels like the weight of the world lifted off our shoulders. You don't want to start the season 0 for 3. We have a young team, and we're making small steps. We had young players get their first points and guys got involved in the fighting part of it."
The Walleye had never beaten the Stingrays (1-2-0) and are now 1-10-1 all time against them.
After Toledo killed off a Stingrays penalty midway through the first period, Walleye forward Michael Pelech drew a holding penalty.
Toledo cashed in on the ensuing power play as Rankin tipped in a long shot from the point by another rookie, Gleason Fournier. Rankin scored his third goal in two nights to give the Walleye a 1-0 edge with 7:56 left in the first.
"We are a very young team, and we're learning what kind of identity we will have," Rankin said. "Getting our first win is huge, especially at home."
With his team holding onto a 1-0 lead and 5:56 left in the second period, Zanette knocked in a rebound. Zanette was parked at the side of the net and hard work from defenseman Kyle Page resulted in the goal. David Gilbert drew an assist on the play.
South Carolina pulled back within one as David de Kastrozza scored 1:39 later. Then with his team clinging to a one-goal lead, McCollum came up with a big kick save with 16:04 left in the game.
Just moments after getting out of the penalty box for fighting, Rauch gave Toledo another two-goal cushion. Rauch, a St. Francis de Sales graduate, scored his first pro goal on assists from Rankin and Pelech to give the Walleye a 3-1 lead with 11:07 left. Rauch fought with Johann Kroll early in the third period.
"He is such a quiet guy, and I'm sure he's overwhelmed a bit," Vitucci said. "It was great for him to get his first fight under his belt and then scoring a goal in the same game was a big thrill for him."
South Carolina pulled back within one goal on Pierre-Luc O'Brien's goal with 1:42 left. The Stingrays pulled their goalie with 1:11 left, but Toledo held on in front of McCollum.
Toledo's next game is at Chicago on Saturday. The team is not back at the Huntington Center until they play a morning game on Nov. 9.
FISH TALES: A fight between Toledo's Kevin Harvey and Phil Oreskovic broke out just 1:31 into game. At the end of the brief scrap, Oreskovic (6-3) took Harvey (6-2) to the ice. In the second period, Toledo's Rob Flick squared off with Paul Baier. The final fight pitted Toledo's Nick Oslund against Danick Paquette late in the game. ...McCollum had a strong first period. He didn't allow a goal on 11 shots, including several point blank chances. He was solid again on a South Carolina power play early in the second. He made five tough saves, including two after he had lost his stick. Moments later, Toledo killed off another Stingrays power play. The Walleye penalty kill had yielded five goals on 10 opponent chances. That ranked last in the ECHL. But South Carolina was 0 of 4 last night. ...The teams will meet again two more times this season. They will play in Toledo on Jan. 8. …Toledo is averaging the second-most penalty minutes in the ECHL. Kevin Harvey has a team-high 17 minutes, which is fourth highest in the league. ... C David Toews and C Harrison Reed were healthy scratches yesterday. ... D Bryan Rufenach recorded his first point of the season with his assist in the first period.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.