Toledo's Todd Jackson probably will never again see an empty goalmouth like this one last night at the Sports Arena. He scores as Andy Franck is drawn to the other side of the goal.
Everything was perfect for the Storm last night.
Toledo goaltender Logan Koopmans' perfection in net enabled the Storm to take sole possession of first place in the North Division with a 3-0 blanking of Wheeling. Toledo (6-2-1) also remained undefeated at home as Koopmans posted a shutout in his first game back from a shoulder injury.
The Nailers (6-2-0), who entered the game one point in front of Toledo atop the division, lost for the first time since their season opener.
Koopmans also remained perfect (2-0-0) by stopping all 23 shots he faced before 3,962 onlookers at the Sports Arena, where Toledo is now 5-0-1.
"You go into every game hoping to stop every shot," Koopmans said.
"It's been a long time coming. It sure helps when the guys are playing like that. I give all the credit to my defensemen. Tonight was almost the perfect time to come back with the defense playing so solidly."
Koopmans, who missed five games, shut down all nine of Wheeling's power-play opportunities.
"He was fantastic," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said. "He looked sharp. He didn't allow many rebounds and he was
positioned well when he did."
Three Storm players, Todd Jackson, Scooter Smith and Jeff Attard, all netted their sixth goals of the season.
Jackson hauled in a rebound and tapped it past Wheeling goalie Andy Franck for Toledo's first goal. With his team on a two-man advantage, captain P.J. Martin set up the goal with a nice pass to Smith whose shot on the doorstep wound up bouncing out front to Jackson. Smith, who leads the team with 16 points, scored an unbelievable short-handed goal midway through the second. Smith skated alone along the boards up the left side of the ice and sent in a shot from an impossible angle. The quick wrister somehow got under Franck to give Toledo a 2-0 lead as a surprised Smith celebrated belatedly.
"It was a bad angle, but good and surprising things happen when you put pucks on the net," Vitucci said.
Attard gave Toledo a three- goal lead when his shot rolled up Franck's stick and over his shoulder. Attard's sixth goal of the season gave the Storm a 3-0 advantage just 1:41 into the final period.
Toledo was 1-of-10 on the power play and had only five shots in the first and third periods for a total of 28. Jackson and Smith each had a goal and an assist.
The shutout avenged the Storm's 6-4 loss to Wheeling in West Virginia last Friday. The teams play 11 more times this season.
"It's a team we lost to already and wanted do get some redemption. This was a great way to do it," Vitucci said. "We're happy to be on top of the heap. But we know it's a marathon and not a sprint. We're happy we've had a good sprint here."
The Storm looks to notch its sixth win at One Main Street tonight against Trenton.
"The great thing about the Sports Arena is that teams hate coming here," Koopmans said. "We have to take advantage of playing in this barn."
MACDONALD RETURNS: Joey MacDonald will start in net tonight for Toledo. MacDonald has been assigned to Toledo from Grand Rapids.
MacDonald, who was an AHL all-star while playing with the Griffins last year, made his pro debut with Toledo in 2001. He will see his first action of the season tonight after recovering from off-season back surgery.
MacDonald had a 12-15-7
record and a 2.88 goals-against average with Toledo. He re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a restricted free agent in August.
"We'd like to put Logan right back in there but [MacDonald] may be in the NHL by the end of the year, so the guys should be excited," Vitucci said.
NOTES: It was Toledo's first shutout of the season. .●.●. Defenseman Ryan Reid ended a fight as quickly as one could be finished when he landed a good right to stun Nailer captain Brendon Hodge. Hodge refused to retaliate and Reid was whistled for roughing. .●.●. The teams combined for only 14 shots in a tight-checking, slow-flowing first period. It took Toledo 10 minutes to get its second shot on goal as the Storm was limited to five shots in the first period. .●.●. Things got a bit chippy in the second period with 13 penalties for a total of 27 minutes. .●.●. Former Florida Panthers coach John Torchetti was at the Sports Arena last night.
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