Jonathan Carlsson, left, Evan Rankin and Jean-Claude Sawyer celebrate Rankin's game-winning goal in overtime against Kalamazoo at Lucas County Arena.
With his team down 3-1 at the end of the first period, Walleye coach Nick Vitucci was especially low-key in the dressing room considering the circumstances.
"We just went over some of our [defensive] zone coverage and what our responsibilities are," Vitucci said, "and that was really it."
Although the season is just eight games old, Vitucci is quickly learning that his team's biggest liability may also be its biggest asset - youth.
Evan Rankin scored the game-winner yesterday as the Walleye outscored Kalamazoo 3-0 in the second period and rallied for a 5-4 overtime victory on School Appreciation Day at Lucas County Arena.
Toledo (5-2-0-1) moved its record to 3-0-0-1 in games decided past regulation after also falling behind early in four of its previous five contests.
Jonathan Carlsson (4) scores over Wings goalie Ryan Nie as Kevin Rankin (86) takes out Darryl Lloyd (72).
"We've shown great resiliency and kind of a never-say-die attitude in coming back from one or two-goal deficits," Vitucci said. "But we've put ourselves in that position as well. We're still continuing to [struggle] to play an entire 60 minutes and not 40 or 45 minutes. The first 15-20 minutes of [yesterday's] game, we were on our heels and running around and not talking and not really playing enthused hockey."
Rankin, a 23-year-old forward and Notre Dame alum, took a pass from Jean-Claude Sawyer just inside the blue line and sniped the puck past Kalamazoo goalie Ryan Nie (23 saves) 2:28 into overtime to send the crowd of 5,759 mostly screaming children back to school happy.
"Sawyer made a cutback and held the line with three guys there," Rankin said. "He got me a pass, and I kicked it up to my stick and fired for top shelf and there it is."
Rankin also had an assist on Maxime Tanguay's nifty goal in the second period that cut the K-Wings lead to 3-2.
Standing behind the net, Tanguay flipped the puck over Nie, and after bouncing off Nie's shoulder and a K-Wing defenseman's arm, it found its way into the goal.
"We had kind of a hard first period, but we bounced back in the second," said Tanguay, who extended his goal streak to three games and also picked up a helper on Adam Hobson's power-play goal later in the period that knotted it at 3.
"It was a tough game but it's our third win in OT, so I think the confidence will be there."
Dominic Osman gave the Walleye a 4-3 lead at the 16:54 mark of the second period on a nice play from Justin Hodgman. Hodgman skated around the left side of the net and zipped a pass cross-ice to Osman, who slammed home the one-timer on the power play.
Kalamazoo (6-1-1-0) would tie it up with 8:03 left in regulation on Trent Daavettila's one-timer from Sam Ftorek that beat Toledo goalie Alec Richards (26 saves) stick-side.
"Part of the learning curve [for these players] is figuring out how to put together 60 minutes of hockey," Vitucci said.
"That seems to be our biggest challenge. But we're finding ways to come back when we're down. It's early signs of fun things to come, hopefully."
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