JETTA FRASER Enlarge
After six goals and three periods weren't enough to settle things Sunday at Lucas County Arena, a blast from the point ended things abruptly in sudden-death overtime.
Toledo defenseman J.C.
Sawyer's huge slap shot from just inside the blue line on the power play gave the Walleye a 4-3 win over Florida.
"I got pretty good wood on it," Sawyer said. "I got it high and he never had a chance to get over. This team is for real. We have a chance to win every night."
Toledo trailed 2-0 after one period, but responded with three in the second period to take the lead. The Everblades tied it up just before the end of the middle stanza. But Sawyer's powerful shot sent 5,197 fans home happy. It also gave Toledo victories in two out of three games over the Everblades in the Walleye's inaugural weekend.
"We played hard and could have won all three," Sawyer said. "But we'll take two out of three over the best team in the league."
Forward Dominic Osman pulled Toledo within one with a power play goal and defenseman Jamie Milam tied it in a solid second period for Toledo. Adam Hobson put Toledo in front 3-2 with a good individual effort. Hobson made a nice move to get out in front of the net and lifted the puck over Mike Morrison with 6:17 left.
But the Everblades knotted things at 3 on A.J. Thelen's second goal of the night.
Walleye goalie Alec Richards, who finished with 33 saves, earned his first pro victory. Richards made a crucial stop to prevent a Florida power-play goal early in the third. He made another big save with 4:06 left on a solo breakaway.
"Four out of six [points] this weekend is really good. This is big for the franchise," Richards said. "It was really important for us to get some confidence. That is a good team over there and they have a lot of skill."
Toledo executed a solid penalty kill after being called for too many men on the ice with less than four minutes left. Then with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation Florida was called for a holding penalty which extended into OT.
"Killing that penalty built momentum," Richards said. "We battled back from a 2-0 deficit in our home barn. It's a nice way to form a good identity."
It took 55 seconds for Sawyer to notch the winner on a pass from Milam.
"Coach [Nick] Vitucci talked about a little play we could do to set up one timers," Sawyer said. "If we're bombing it from the point we have a good chance of scoring."
Milam tied it on a shot from the slot off a nice pass from Tommy Lange. Milam capped a solid weekend with a goal and two assists. He has a team-high five points (2 G, 3 A).
The Walleye made it 2-1 just 1:46 into the second period. Osman made a diving effort to get Toledo its first goal. Osman, of Dearborn, Mich., was in midair when he banged the puck off of a long rebound on Brock Wilson's initial shot.
Florida opened the scoring 10:59 into the game. Toledo then nearly withstood a full two minute five-on-three disadvantage. But Thelen finally converted on a slapper with 42 seconds remaining on the two man advantage. It was the seventh shot of the power play.
Toledo killed off a second five-on-three advantage for Florida which lasted
1:26 midway through the second. The Walleye was outshot 36-30, but converted on two of six power play opportunities. Toledo also stopped seven of eight Florida power plays.
"It was a huge win against a terrific opponent,"
Vitucci said. "It was a good gut check and shows the type of character this team has. So yeah, we'll take these two wins."
Toledo next hosts Reading on Friday and Saturday.
FISH TALES: Morrison, who has played in 29 NHL games, was shaken up on a hard shot by Joe Charlebois. He finished with 26 saves. …Former Storm assistant coach and player Mark Bernard was in attendance at yesterday's game. Bernard is the Chicago Blackhawks' general manager of minor league affiliations. Toledo is Chicago's ECHL affiliate. …The "chuck a puck" contest made its return between the first and second periods. …The team introduced a new mascot called "Catrick." The feline mascot will be the nemesis of Spike, the team's main mascot. …The Walleye wore old-school style sweaters last night. The powder blue jersey featured the team's name in script lettering.
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