The Toledo Storm has owned a lot of things lately.
Toledo has owned its home ice, the first-place Wheeling Nailers, and the third period. The Storm maintained that dominance last night when it dropped Wheeling 3-1 before 3,852 spectators at the Sports Arena.
The teams exchanged power-play goals in the first two periods and then Toledo notched two unanswered in the third. The Storm improved to 6-2-1 against the Nailers and 14-4-3 at home. Toledo has now outscored its opponents by 34 goals and outshot its foes by 108 in the third period.
Goalie Drew MacIntyre stopped 28 shots to help Toledo boost its record to 8-1-2 in its last 11 games.
"We know how to kick it into an extra gear in the third period," said MacIntyre (9-1-2). "A goalie loves that. We seem to have that confidence and swagger. This is huge because we want to be in first place."
Toledo (26-13-5) returned home after a 5-2 road trip and has pulled within five points of Wheeling (29-15-4) in the North Division. The Storm outshot the Nailers 47-29.
Right winger Robert Snowball scored the game-winner just
2:48 into the final period. Snowball's quick shot beat Wheeling goalie Andy Franck under his right armpit.
"It's been a while. It gave us a momentum boost and it held up to be the game-winner," said Snowball, who scored his last goal on Jan. 6 in his first appearance after a long stint on the disabled list. "The third period has been our most successful and we know that. But we need to play a solid 60 minutes. We're chasing them, so it's a huge two points."
Mike James salted it away with a rebound goal with 4:15 remaining.
Toledo opened the scoring just four seconds after a 5-on-3 advantage had expired. Ken Magowan took a nice feed from Scooter Smith, but his shot was stopped by Franck. Magowan then poked the rebound out of midair and knocked it past Franck. Magowan's 18th goal of the year gave Toledo the lead with 5:09 left in the first period.
MacIntyre was brilliant in net in the first period, making five crucial saves and stoning two Wheeling power plays.
But Wheeling's answer also came just as its two-man advantage expired early in the second period. Mike Doyle scored on a rebound just as Todd Jackson was jumping out of the penalty box to tie at 1.
The play in the second period all took place in the Wheeling end as Toledo outshot the Nailers 25-8. But the Storm couldn't find the back of the net despite three power play opportunities.
Overall, Toledo did cash in on two of six power play opportunities. While the Storm also improved to 23-9-3 when playing inside its division, coach Nick Vitucci was far from happy with his team's performance.
"We're a surging hockey team, but I still think we can play a lot better," he said. "We still haven't given all we can. Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist."
The teams meet again tonight at 7:35 at 1 Main Street.
STORM NOTES: Storm right winger Chris Blight lost two teeth when a puck deflected up under his visor. Toledo reached 40 shots on goal with 13:39 still left to play. Smith, Brad Bonello, Josh Zavitz, B.J. Adams and Jeff Attard all had assists for Toledo.
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