Life began at 40 last night for the Toledo Storm.
It ended shortly thereafter.
Toledo scored on its 40th shot of the game at 6:28 of the third period, an Alexandre Jacques goal cutting a Wheeling Nailers' lead to 2-1 at the Sports Arena.
Forty-one seconds later it was over.
Storm rookie center Jeff Petrie couldn't clear his own zone, the puck ended up in the Toledo net off the stick of Wheeling's Mark Major and the visiting Nailers' - despite being outshot by the Storm, 49-28 - went on to take a 4-2 victory.
Toledo is winless in its past six and at the bottom of the East Coast Hockey League's Northwest Division at 2-5-1. In its past six starts, Toledo has scored only nine goals.
“It's getting a little late now to work hard and be close,” Storm coach Dennis Holland said. “We need to start winning games now.
“We can get down, we can get mad and depressed, but right now, we have to win an ugly one.”
There was nothing ugly about the performance of Wheeling goalie Joel Laing.
Included in his 47-save effort was a cross-crease sliding stop on a Richard Keyes one-timer in the second period and another leg save on a Keyes third period break-in.
“I don't have any answers right now,” said Keyes who had two assists. “I thought we played pretty well tonight, to tell you the truth. Their goalie was great.”
Said Nailers coach John Brophy: “(Laing) won the game for us. When you get a game like that from a goaltender, it'd be a shame to waste it.”
Laing has now won both of his starts against the Storm this season, including a 3-0 shutout Oct. 14 in West Virginia.
“The atmosphere is great here,” Laing said. “It's my favorite place to play in the league. You come in and the fans are packed to the roof and they're screaming and yelling.”
Much of the yelling was for Storm alumnus and frequent fighter Ken Tasker who was making his first appearance in Toledo since being cut by the Storm in training camp last season. Tasker played nine fight-free shifts and picked up an assist on Wheeling's second goal.
“Just like old times,” Tasker said. “Well, not quite like old times. I didn't have any fights tonight. I'm sure the opportunity to throw 'em down will come, but right now, I've got to be patient and play hockey.”
In an attempt to improve its brand of hockey, Storm management has been trying to make changes all week, but without much success.
Toledo officials have had discussions with free agent forwards Kevin Kerr, Chris MacKenzie, Scott Kirton and Shane Calder in hopes of shaking up the lineup. Kerr and MacKenzie, proven scorers at the minor league level, want too much money and don't fit in under the league-imposed salary cap.
Late yesterday, Kirton told Holland that he was going to Europe.
Calder, a right winger, could be in Toledo as early as Tuesday. He is a six-year pro who scored 22 goals and 21 assists in 67 games last season for Baton Rouge of the ECHL.
“We're still looking around for the right makeup for our hockey team,” Holland said. “Right now, these guys aren't getting the job done.”
NOTES: Former Quebec Nordiques' winger Max Middendorf refereed the contest. After retiring from hockey a few years ago, he turned to officiating and has been working his way through the minor leagues. ... Toledo placed forwards Kelly Miller and Yuri Moscevsky on the seven-day injured reserve list. ... San Jose Sharks' director of hockey operations/pro scout Jim Wiley was in attendance. ... Toledo is in Cincinnati tonight before heading to Wheeling for a rematch tomorrow. Those two starts are the first of five consecutive road games. The Storm doesn't play at the Sports Arena again until Nov. 17.
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