JETTA FRASER Enlarge
The Toledo Walleye backed up a stellar performance by its goaltender with a three-goal onslaught in the waning moment's last night to capture the first win in franchise history.
Defenseman Jamie Milam scored the game-winner on a power play with 6:25 left in the game as Toledo topped Florida 5-2 at Lucas County Arena. Justin Hodgman and Tommy Lange capped it with goals just 19 seconds apart.
Rookie goalie Jordan Pearce was nothing short of spectacular at times, making 35 saves to earn his first pro victory. Toledo broke open a 2-2 deadlock with three goals over the final six minutes before a sold-out crowd of 7,467.
"It's a nice way to start the next part of my career," Pearce said. "But it was a special night for the whole organization. I got here a week ago and people have said Toledo loves hockey. I was amazed to see 8,000 fans. It's a great win for the city and the locker room."
Milam, who also had two assists, just put the puck on net and it found its way through some bodies and by Florida goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu.
"It was just shoot and hope and pray," Milam said. "The best stuff happens when you just get a shot on net. This was more about the team. It could have been anybody else on the team, and I would have been just as happy."
A little more than three minutes later, Hodgman added a power play goal and then Lange iced it. Toledo earned it first win despite being outshot 37-25.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci chewed out his players between the second and third periods.
"I was disappointed because if it weren't for Jordan, we may not have been in the game," he said.
Defenseman Joe Charlebois scored a power play goal to give Toledo a 1-0 early in the first
period. Right winger Mark Nebus then put the Walleye up 2-0 early in the second.
But despite Pearce's efforts, Florida answered with two goals in the second to tie it. Jordan Morrison's rebound goal came just seconds after a Walleye penalty had expired, and Pearce did not see the second shot. Brandon Buck then patiently snuck one by Pearce with 3:22 left in the period.
Toledo recovered and put all the pressure on to start the third and did not allow a shot until 10:09 remained. Pearce again had some strong stops midway through the third and made the save of the game with 8:06 left to bring the crowd to its feet and keep it tied.
"[Pearce] battled so hard," Milam said. "He made key saves at important times. We knew we had to play hard for him."
Pearce, who led Notre Dame to a CCHA title last season, said he prefers to see a lot of shots.
"He was one of the top college goalies in the country. He has game," Vitucci said.
The Walleye finished three of four on the power play and held the Everblades to zero goals on seven chances. The game also featured three crowd-pleasing fights.
Nebus gave the Walleye a 2-0 cushion 3:27 into the second on a tip. Charlebois got the second goal in Walleye history just 5:27 into the game on a shot from the point. It was his first pro goal.
The team saluted the crowd after the game by skating to center ice and raising their sticks. The teams meet again for the third time at 5:30 today.
"It should be a big boost to our confidence," Vitucci said. "They are one of the top rated teams in the league, and we sent a message to the rest of the division that we're not just an expansion team, we're for real."
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