ATLANTIC CITY - Move over Toledo. The Boardwalk Bullies made their case as the best team in the East Coast Hockey League.
Yesterday, the Bullies gritted out a 3-2 victory over the Storm, their second in two days against the team that brought the league's best record into Boardwalk Hall. Peoria also won, and now has a three-point lead over Toledo.
This one wasn't quite as convincing as Friday's 4-0 whitewash, but it was no less inspired. The Bullies killed off three penalties in the third period, including one in the last minute that gave the Storm a 6-on-4 advantage with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
The Storm slid to 1-4-2 in its last seven games, including a winless three-game New Jersey road swing. Toledo at least broke its two-game scoring drought with goals by Paul Ballantyne and Jeff Mitchell.
“Our effort was good, and we were in the game the whole way through,” coach Claude Noel said.
“It was a tight-checking game. We created more offense tonight and played harder. We made a couple mistakes, they capitalized on them, and it was the difference in the game. It's two first-place teams battling. That's playoff-type hockey.”
The Storm is missing Alexandre Jacques, Jeff Johnstone and Andrew Payette to injuries, and several others to AHL call-ups.
“We're going to get better,” said Noel, whose team has a quick turnaround with a home game today against Dayton.
“If that requires new players, that's what we're going to get done. We're here to win it, so are [the Bullies], and we're not going to sit back and watch.”
Jim Henkel broke a 2-2 tie 1:02 into the third period, flinging a wrist shot past Toledo goaltender Mike Minard on a 2-on-1 pass from Scott Matzka.
The Bullies scored on only one of their eight power plays, but killed off 6-of-7 for Toledo.