The Toledo Storm put 24 shots on net in a pivotal second period, scored two power-play goals and then clamped down defensively last night to remain the East Coast Hockey League's top team.
Toledo tallied 49 total shots - its fourth-highest total this season - in a 2-1 triumph over the Louisiana IceGators before a sellout crowd of 5,361 at the Sports Arena.
Matt Ellis capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage late in the second when he scored the game-winner on a backhander that beat Kyle Kettles on the glove side. It was Ellis' 20th goal of the season, which is second best on the team.
“After we went up 2-1, we played intelligently with the lead,” said Storm coach Claude Noel. “When we scored on that 5-on-3, that was it.
“We had a decent chance to go up a couple but we just couldn't finish.”
With Louisiana serving 12 minutes in penalties in the second period, Toledo put two dozen shots on net. The Storm averages 34.98 shots per game.
Tim Verbeek got the Storm on the board just over six minutes into the game when he slid the puck behind Kettles on a tough angle from the right side during a power play. The goal was Verbeek's 14th.
Louisiana answered minutes later when Chris Taliercio knocked in a rebound from right out in front through Doug Teskey's legs.
But Toledo continued to carry the play the rest of the way and only Kettles' play kept it close.
“Their goalie was pretty good tonight,” Noel said.
Toledo and Louisiana are two of the most-penalized teams in the ECHL and the first two periods were chippy.
The IceGators came in ranked second in penalty minutes and the Storm was fourth. Both average over 30 minutes in penalties per game.
Louisiana reached that total after the first two periods.
“I thought it was a tough game flow-wise,” Noel said. “It was a clutch-and-grab game. They play physical hockey. I think they took our skill players out of the game.”
Louisiana, which had 30 shots, finished with 34 penalty minutes. Toledo had 28.
While the Storm offense was buzzing, every defensive pairing also played well. Though many of the saves were easy for both netminders, Teskey (24-6-4) was tested on a number of occasions.
The offensive flow picked up for the Storm in the second period as it generated 14 shots over the first 12 minutes. But Kettles was up to the challenge until Ellis' power-play tally.
The Storm improved to 39-13-8 to remain atop the Northwest Division and still has the best record in the ECHL.
Toledo plays its third game in as many days when it hosts Wheeling today at 3 p.m. at the Sports Arena.
NOTES: Former Storm legend Mark “The Diesel” Deazeley dropped the puck for the honorary faceoff before the game. Deazeley played six seasons for Toledo and scored 117 goals. ... It was “Mardi Gras night” and the Storm players wore special uniforms to honor the occasion. The sweaters, which were purple, yellow and green, were auctioned off for the United Health Services charity after the game.