Phillippe Lakos has waited all season to score his first professional goal. It came last night at the Sports Arena against the Wheeling Nailers.
The Toledo Storm rookie defenseman liked it so much, he scored his second just 12 minutes later.
The goals were big, too, enough to help the Storm to a 6-3 victory and a back-to-back home ice sweep of the visitors from West Virginia.
“It was great,” Lakos said. “I score my first pro goal and then I score my second. It was like, wow, I couldn't even believe it.”
Believe this; the Storm has now won five consecutive starts.
Last night's victory puts Toledo into sole possession of second place in the East Coast Hockey League's Northwest Division. The Storm passed third place Dayton, which was idle, and pulled to within four points of division-leading Peoria, which beat Johnstown 3-1 last night.
“We're playing as a team right now,” Storm coach Dennis Holland said.
“I didn't think our top players were our top players tonight, but guys like Phil Lakos stepped up.”
Lakos, 20, out of the Ontario (junior) Hockey League, made the biggest stride, scoring on two top shelf, glove-side wrist shots from the slot. His first, at 12:42 of the second period, gave the Storm a 3-1 lead. The second came at 4:48 of the third and boosted Toledo's lead to 5-3.
“He scored National Hockey League-type goals,” Holland said. “He took his time and got his head up. He's turning out to be a very solid defenseman for us. He's starting to believe he can play. It's exciting to see for a young guy like that.”
Exciting, too, for Lakos who can't remember the last time he scored twice in a game.
Making it more notable, the outburst equals his two-season goal output with Toronto in the OHL.
“It took me a little while to get used to the pro game,” Lakos said. “I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with the puck so I'm trying to pick my game up a little bit.”
Aside from Lakos, other Storm notables were forward Sam Katsuras who was arguably the most persistent player on the ice, winger Tim Verbeek who also scored twice, and Toledo's penalty killing units, which gave up just one goal in 10 chances for Wheeling.
Although starting goalie Mark Bernard faced 43 shots, the Storm held the Nailers without a shot on five of the 10 power-play tries including one sequence of five-on-three.
“We've worked very hard the last six weeks,” Holland said. “I think we're starting to get the fruits of our hard work and determination. We're now where we want to be, we're in the middle of a home ice, first-place battle now and it'll be up to us to see what we want to do with it.”
NOTES: When Wheeling starting goalie Craig Hillier went to the bench early in the final period to remove a damaged arm and chest protector, Storm music coordinator Ray Cebulis played “The Stripper.” So that's what one male fan in Section 19 did, baring his chest while bumping and grinding to the music. ... Toledo plays in Greensboro on Tuesday. It's the first of six consecutive road games.The Storm returns home on Saturday, Feb. 3, to play Wheeling.