JOHNSTOWN, Pa. Toledo Storm coach Nick Vitucci had a hunch that putting third-year forward Mike James on a line with rookies Bracken Kearns and Chris Blight would produce chemistry and results.
The trio proved him right last night against the Johnstown Chiefs at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Kearns and Blight scored goals 17 seconds apart in the third period and James was an agitator against his former team as the Storm routed the Chiefs 7-3.
They re young guys, Vitucci said of Kearns. Mike James has been on their line the last four or five games and they all seem to complement each other well.
Kearns had two goals, both coming in the Storm s decisive four-goal third period. He also had an assist and a plus-4 rating. Blight had a goal, two points and a plus-4. The feisty James assisted on Blight s goal 2:23 into the third and collected four penalty minutes while drawing the ire of Chiefs players and many of the 2,705 fans.
Johnstown had allowed a pair of third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to visiting Reading on Friday. Wheeling edged the Storm 3-1 that same night.
Fifth-place Toledo (15-11-4) closed within two points of fourth-place Johnstown (14-15-8) with seven games in hand.
The Storm took a 1-0 advantage 2:04 into the game, as right winger Todd Jackson backhanded a rebound of Ryan Reid s shot into the net for a power play goal against Johnstown all-star goalie Jonathan Boutin.
Chiefs forward Jean Desrochers picked up a loose puck along the left-wing boards and skated alone into the Storm zone before scoring 1:45 into the second period.
Toledo s Scooter Smith knocked in a Jeff Lang rebound for another power-play goal, giving the Storm a 2-1 lead at 7:49 of the second.
Jon Ames goal from the point at 13:41 padded the Toledo margin, but Johnstown defenseman Brady Greco also scored on a long shot between the circles. The power-play tally at 17:20 pulled the hosts within 3-2 through two periods.
After Kearns and Blight did their damage in the third, Johnstown s Joe Tallari scored at 17:06 with goaltender Boutin pulled for an extra attacker. But Ken Magowan hit the empty net 41 seconds later.
Storm goalie Drew MacIntyre earned his first victory while making 28 saves.
I wish we could say we executed everything we wanted to and played a great game, Vitucci said. But we didn t. It was a sloppy hockey game.
You win a game 7-3 and probably give up a dozen odd-man rushes.
It wasn t good hockey, but we gained two points and we re happy with that. Maybe it s the two points we deserved Friday night in Wheeling. We can get better.