Mired in a four-game losing streak with little offensive production, Toledo Storm assistant coach Stan Drulia produced a video of every goal his team had scored this season and showed it to his players prior to last night's pre-game skate.
The video magic worked its mojo as the Storm exercised some demons and defeated first-place Reading, 4-3, in a shootout. Toledo (28-17-5) snapped a season-high four-game losing skid to pull within 10 points of Reading (32-13-7) in the North Division.
The Storm had not scored a power play goal in 34 consecutive opportunities before it connected on two straight chances with the man advantage in the second period.
After a scoreless first period, the teams scored three goals apiece in the second period. Both clubs then had eight shots each but failed to score in the third period. Toledo outshot the Royals 7-2 in sudden death overtime, but was forced to go to the shootout.
Todd Jackson then scored the only goal and Storm goalie Drew MacIntyre stoned five Reading skaters to send the 4,301 fans at the Sports Arena into a wild celebration.
"It's the greatest feeling," said Jackson, who also had an assist. "It was on the home ice. It's a very, very intense situation just one on one. But I love being out there. This was huge for us for our morale and the standings."
Fresh from winning five in a row, Toledo entered the contest having lost two consecutive games on home ice. The Storm also had scored just four goals in its last four games and was shut out twice.
Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said Drulia created the tape so the players could see themselves being successful and having good things happen.
"It was a little mental kick in the behind to show them we have done it and [we] can do it again," Vitucci said. "I think it helped our mindset."
The Storm had gone nearly 350 minutes without posting a power play goal dating back five games to Feb. 17. Jackson said when a team gets in slumps, "doubt starts to creep in.
"When we went back to that video and saw all the goals we scored and all the fun we were having, you could see the excitement after each goal," he said. "Lately, we weren't having that same excitement. So maybe we lost a little bit of that fire. We're trying to get that back right now."
Toledo went 2 for 8 on the power play last night, but failed to score with a chance in overtime. Scooter Smith and Ken Magowan scored with the man advantage and Robert Snowball scored an even strength goal.
MacIntyre, who had surrendered more than two goals just once in the last seven games, made 21 stops including several fantastic kick-saves late.
"When times are tough and points are hard to come by, we need individuals to step up to be heroes. Tonight we had a lot of guys who were heroes," Vitucci said.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Reading. Toledo improved to 6-1-1 against the Royals. The teams meet again this afternoon at the Sports Arena.
Smith scored on a one-timer from Jackson to open the scoring early in the second.
However, that lead lasted just 32 seconds as Shay Stephenson answered for Reading.
The Royals then tallied a power play goal before Magowan notched his team-leading 13th power play goal. Magowan's tip out in front of the crease tied it at 2 with 9:30 to go in the second.
Reagan Rome put his team back out front with another power play goal late in the second. But Storm tough man Robert Snowball knotted it at 3 with a rebound goal in the waning moments of the second period.
The Storm, which is ranked second in the league with an average of 35.88 shots per game, outshot Reading 45-24.
"Sometimes when you're pressing, you squeeze the stick too hard and instead of a goal you have a handful of sawdust," Vitucci said. "A big team effort and victory erases all of that. It's nice to get off this little slide we were on. Our mindset will be so much different. They know how hard things have been and it's nice to see them leave the rink with a well-deserved smile."
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.