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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2007

Storm gets by Nailers in a shootout

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Storm goalie Ervins Mustukovs stays after every practice to face about 200 breakaways from his teammates.

Last night, the extra work paid off for Mustukovs in a 4-3 shootout win over Wheeling. Mustukovs struggled early, giving up three goals. But he stoned all four skaters in the shootout.

Chris Blight and Nick Parillo scored in the shootout before 2,769 at the Sports Arena.

"He's won a few shootouts for us now," Blight said. "He takes about 200 breakaways after each practice. We get tired before he gets tired."

Wheeling goalie Andy Franck allowed few rebounds and finished with 53 saves. Mustukovs gave up three goals over the first 33 minutes, then settled in and stopped 23 shots.

Mustukovs made game-saving stops early and late in OT as both goaltenders stepped up. Mustukovs (5-3-0) has now won three shootouts for Toledo.

"I like it. I don't feel pressure. I just feel good on breakaways," said Mustukovs, a native of Latvia who speaks with an accent. "The team played so well. We had so many shots. I felt more confident in the third period and overtime."

The Storm held a 36-13 advantage in shots after two periods, including a 20-6 edge in the second. But it still trailed 3-2. Toledo had given up the fewest shots it had all season (26), but still had to go to the shootout.

"We peppered Franck with shots and he was great," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said.

Center Brent Sullivan scored twice, including the tying goal, and Matt Zultek tallied his team-high 17th goal and 39th point.

The Storm twice overcame two-goal goal deficits to improve to 28-22-1 and move into a second place tie in the North Division. Wheeling (20-26-5) remained in last place. Toledo has won five of its last seven.

Wheeling scored just 1:47 into the game when Jon Smyth sent a rebound into a wide open net.

Mustukovs then gave up a soft goal to former Storm player Adam Edinger. Edinger, who also played at Bowling Green, scored just his third of the season on a long shot from the top of the left circle to make it 2-0 with 3:00 left in the first period.

Toledo outshot Wheeling 16-7 and had three power plays but still trailed by two after one period. The Storm also could not capitalize on a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:11 and another two man advantage that lasted 18 seconds.

Zultek finally broke through with a power play goal 2:34 into the second period. Zultek slid a rebound by Franck off of a shot by Gerry Burke. He now has seven points (3 goals) in five games against Wheeling.

But the Nailers went back up by two with a shorthanded goal from Ned Havern.

"We left him out to dry early," Sullivan said. "But he kept in a good frame of mind. We just had to keep chipping away."

Sullivan tallied a power play goal just 1:03 later to make it 3-2. Sullivan then tied it 5:55 into the third period with a shot from the slot.

Mustukovs made the most saves in the overtime (7), including two on breakaways.

"He had a solid game and was great late," Vitucci said. "He's a workhorse. He'll stay out after practice. If someone is willing to shoot on him, he'll be willing to stop them."

Mustukovs then made four saves in the shootout before Blight scored the game-winner and Parillo finished it.

"He works so hard. We're rooting for him to play at the next level," Parillo said. "He loves going against us. We joke that he is going to ruin our confidence. He's a great breakaway goalie. He is great side to side."

NOTES: The Storm is still playing without nine players, including five who were called up to the American Hockey League.

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.



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