Toledo's Jason Maleyko outraces a Dayton player during the second period last night.
After going nearly four months without seeing a shot in a live contest, Toledo Storm goalie Logan Koopmans let two goals in on Dayton's first three shots last night. But instead of crumbling, Koopmans did not allow another goal over the next 56 minutes and 57 seconds.
Toledo and Dayton combined to score three goals in the first four minutes of the game. The Bombers grabbed a quick 2-0 lead, but the Storm went on to score the final four in a 4-2 triumph last night before 3,896 spectators at the Sports Arena.
Koopmans, who had been sidelined since Dec. 3 after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, looked extremely shaky early. But he finished with 20 saves to help Toledo (39-20-5) keep pace and stay within two points of first-place Reading in the North Division.
"Obviously there were some nerves," Koopmans said. "Two of the first three shots went in. That snapped me back into it. I had my head into it and I felt pretty good the rest of the way. I was surprised after I got past the first few minutes; it felt like any other game.
"I knew 2-0 was nothing, especially with this team."
Toledo more than doubled the Bombers in shots on goal (50-22) as defensemen Ryan Reid and Jason Maleyko scored goals. Wingers Matt Zultek and Chris Blight also scored to help Koopmans improve to 5-1-2.
Three of those wins have come against last place Dayton (18-41-6), which fell to
0-11-2 in its last 13 games.
Maleyko, the team's captain, scored the game-win-ner and broke a 2-2 deadlock with a power play goal at the 14:13 mark of the second period. Maleyko charged in to corral a long rebound, made a nifty move and beat Bomber goalie Mike Ayers to make it 3-2.
"We knew we would come back. We just have that swagger," said Maleyko, who collected his 43rd point of the season, a total which is third-best among
defensemen in the ECHL.
Dayton's Kyle Musselman collected his own rebound and opened the scoring 1:11 into the contest. Jeff Legue then took advantage of an odd bounce off the boards to beat Koopmans a little more than two minutes later.
But Toledo answered just 55 seconds after that on Zultek's 12th of the season.
Zultek redirected Reid's shot from the point to pull Toledo back within one. Reid then picked up a Bomber turnover deep in Dayton's end to knot things. Reid intercepted an attempted clear, skated in and beat Ayers with a quick snap shot.
"No one thought we were in trouble," Reid said. "Everyone is confident. We really wanted to help [Koopmans] out. We want him to get his confidence going. We didn't allow any breakaways tonight."
Blight put the nail in the coffin with his 26th of the year with
1:26 left in the game.
Koopmans said he felt he was in better shape than before the injury and he said it never crossed his mind that he wouldn't play again this season.
"At times I kind of felt helpless," he said. "But knowing the harder I worked, the sooner I would be back, kind of drove me. This is a good team that has such a good chance at doing something in the playoffs. That made it a lot easier, too.
"It was good to get this one out of the way. It's important that my teammates have the confidence in me and know that I'm prepared to play."
Storm coach Nick Vitucci said goalie Bryan Worosz will get the start in tonight's game against Johnstown. He said Koopmans has not been cleared to play in back-to-back games yet.
"That was a great 57 minutes by Koops," Vitucci said. "It will take a few games to get the rust off. He looked a little shaky early. It's like he is in training camp again.
"I'm real proud that he did not let those two goals affect him the rest of the game. He settled down right away. He had some huge saves for us. He looked like the old Logan again after the first three minutes."
Toledo has just eight games left, including another meeting with the Bombers tomorrow in Dayton.
"I think we need to win seven to get first," Maleyko said of his team that took sole possession of second place last night.
NOTES: Scooter Smith, the team's second-leading scorer, returned to the team for the first time in 14 days. Smith, who was injured while playing for Lowell of the AHL, had four shots and was pivotal in a late penalty kill. Toledo's newest addition, forward Randy Harris, started the game on a line with Todd Jackson and Ken Magowan. Harris played at Niagara University. Magowan capped the night by getting the best of Jeremy Van Hoof in a fight with 4:07 left.
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