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Published: Monday, 2/27/2006

Storm shoots ... and shoots

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Storm's Scooter Smith (22) fights Reading's Grant Jacobsen (20) for the puck. Toledo is 7-1-1 against the Royals. The Storm's Scooter Smith (22) fights Reading's Grant Jacobsen (20) for the puck. Toledo is 7-1-1 against the Royals.
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The old hockey adage that says good things happen when you put a lot of shots on net rang true yesterday afternoon for the Toledo Storm.

Toledo peppered Reading goaltender Cody Rudkowsky with 51 shots and got four past him as the Storm dropped the division-leading Royals 4-2 before 3,311 spectators at the Sports Arena. Toledo (29-17-5) drew within eight points of Reading (32-14-7) with two games in hand in the ECHL North Division.

Chris Blight scored two second-period goals within a span of 2:17 and Scooter Smith tallied the game-winner just 14 seconds into the final period. Defenseman Gerry Burke added insurance with a power-play goal with 3:05 left in the game. Left winger Mike James finished with three assists.

Toledo came into the game outshooting its opponents by 319 and ranked second in the ECHL with an average of 36.06 per contest. Conversely, Reading ranked near the bottom with 31.10 shots per game. Yesterday, the Storm outshot the Royals by 31.

"We have a hardworking team and we all like to shoot," Blight said. "Every shot in our rink is a good shot. Other teams don't realize they can shoot from pretty much anywhere. We just try to put as many shots on net as possible."

Toledo also is among the top teams in limiting shots (29.68) and Reading is in the bottom half (32.92). Yesterday, Reading managed just seven shots with the game halfway in the books and finished with 20.

"A shot on net is never a bad thing, especially in this league and in this rink," said Smith, who collected his team-high 51st point. "You get some funny bounces here. We want to put as many pucks on net as we can and get to the front of the net and jam home rebounds."

The opening period was marred by 16 penalties. The teams were whistled for 19 minutes apiece and each had four power plays. Yet the period was played primarily in the Royals' end as Toledo outshot Reading 14-5.

The Storm completely carried the play in the second with a 20-8 advantage in shots on net.

"That says a lot about our style and our ability to put that many shots on goal," said coach Nick Vitucci.

After Toledo failed to convert on a 5-on-3 situation that lasted 1:05, Reading scored shorthanded. Grant Jacobsen cashed in on a two-on-one breakaway with a rebound goal midway through the second period.

Blight then got Toledo on the board with an even-strength goal tying it at 1 with 3:32 left in the second period. Blight's second goal came just over two minutes later when he knocked in a rebound off of James' shot.

"I'm just happy with any point I can get as long as we get the win," said James, who had missed two games due to an illness. "I've had three goals in a game, but never three assists."

However, just 33 seconds after Blight's goal, Reading's Larry Courville responded with one to tie it.

Smith scored the clinching goal on the first shot of the final period. It was Smith's 20th goal of the season.

"I don't want to jinx us but these last two games have definitely helped out our confidence," Smith said of back-to-back home wins over Reading. "We have our swagger back."

The Storm, which played the second of a five-game home stand, improved to 17-6-3 at the Sports Arena. Toledo, which hosts Trenton on Wednesday and Friday, also moved to 7-1-1 against the Royals.

There was not much action for Toledo goalie Drew MacIntyre, who stopped 18 shots. MacIntyre (12-5-2) has started nine straight games for the Storm, which had lost five in a row before winning two straight.

"We faced some adversity. Hopefully we're through it and we keep going now," Blight said.

NOTES: Storm defenseman Mat Ponto is back in the Southern Professional Hockey League playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths. Toledo retains the rights to Ponto, who is expected to rejoin the team after helping Columbus in its current playoff run. … Defenseman Jason Maleyko was named the Storm's captain Thursday. Maleyko has collected 29 points with three goals and 26 assists. Defenseman P.J. Martin was named captain prior to the season opener, but he was called up to Lowell of the AHL on Nov. 26 and hasn't been back since. Jeff Attard and Smith are the team's assistant captains. … Robert Snowball duked it out with Tyler Hanchuck in a third-period brawl.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.



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