The Toledo Walleye found yet another agonizing way to lose Sunday, this time by painting themselves into a corner with eight penalties in the third period.
Toledo took a 4-1 lead on South Carolina with 14:50 left at Lucas County Arena. But the Walleye spent the majority of the final period in the penalty box, and the Stingrays scored two power play goals and then tied it at 4 with 3:02 remaining.
Toledo coach Nick Vitucci vigorously questioned the officiating in the third period in which South Carolina outshot the Walleye 23-5.
After a scoreless overtime, South Carolina won the shootout with one goal as the Walleye did not score on five chances. The Stingrays emerged with a 5-4 shootout win before an announced crowd of 3,308.
Toledo dropped to 7-7-4 and has now has lost eight of its last 10 contests, including four out of five at Lucas County Arena. The Walleye managed to earn just one point in three weekend home games.
Vitucci met with a supervisor of ECHL officials, who was in attendance, after the game.
"I've never done that before. I've never tracked down a supervisor right after a game," Vitucci said.
"There were a couple questionable ones against us and certainly a couple that should have been called in our favor. I trust that the ECHL will look at this just like we look at players."
Toledo managed to kill off the first two penalties called by referee David Lewis in the third period. And Walleye forward Adam Hobson actually scored a shorthanded goal to increase the lead to 4-1.
But then with two Walleye players in the box, South Carolina made it 4-2. Less than four minutes later, the Stingrays netted another power play goal to pull within one. Toledo captain Ryan Stokes was in the box for a slashing call.
"I've never seen it that lopsided before," Stokes said. "There were a couple of missed calls on us, too. Obviously discipline becomes a factor. But I thought some of the calls were suspect. I'm not going to sit and [complain] about the referreeing. But obviously it got a little embarrassing. We were in the box the whole period. It's frustrating. But you have to battle through adversity."
Stokes turned the puck over at his own blue line and Gregg Johnson scored on the breakaway to tie it with 3:02 left. Toledo then had to kill off a 5-on-3 situation for 1:25 late in the period to send it to OT.
"For what we had to deal with, I'm proud of my team in the third period," Vitucci said. "I'm proud of the effort they put forth."
In the shootout, Keith Johnson beat Walleye goalie Alec Richards, who stopped the other four attempts. Stingrays goalie Braden Holtby made all five stops. Although Maxime Tanguay thought he had scored on Toledo's second attempt.
"They got that one right," Vitucci said. "There were refs on both sides of the net."
Richards, who was reassigned yesterday from Rockford of the AHL, finished with 40 saves.
The Stingrays (13-6-4), the defending Kelly Cup champions, have the most points in the ECHL American Conference and led 1-0 after the first period.
But Toledo notched three goals just 2:14 apart in the second period. Mark Nebus sparked the rally with a goal on a rebound. Just 1:12 after that, Evan Rankin scored on a backhander. It was Rankin's team-high ninth goal of the season.
Mike Hedden capped the comeback on a solo breakaway. Hedden made a move around a defender and then scored on the backhand to give the Walleye a 3-1 edge with 11 minutes left in the period.
The pace picked up for Toledo as it outshot the Stingrays 16-8 in the second period. In the third period, the Walleye were called for tripping, holding the stick, slashing, roughing, and twice both for cross checking and hooking.
"I've never seen anything like that with so many penalties in the third period," Stokes said. "We managed to get one point out of it. But you want to get the two points when you are up 4-1 in the third."
Overall, Toledo had seven power plays and did not score on any. The Stingrays were 3 of 10 on the power play.
"It was out of our hands," Vitucci said. "But the league is in good hands. The ECHL will do their part to make sure they are developing the right officials. The ones that don't have a chance should maybe go to a lower league. We competed the way we needed to."
Toledo hosts Florida on Wednesday.
FISH TALES: Richards went 1-1-0 with a 2.54 goals against average for Rockford. With Toledo, Richards had a 4-1-2 record and a 2.75 GAA and .903 save percentage. … Toledo sent G Billy Sauer back to Lake Erie of the AHL to make room for Richards. Sauer had posted a 1-1-0 record and a 4.51 GAA for the Walleye. … Despite yesterday's low turnout, Toledo entered the game leading the ECHL in average attendance with 6,366 per game. … Former Detroit Red Wing Jiri Fischer, who is the organization's director of player development, was in attendance at yesterday's game. … Toledo had a two-man advantage for a full minute to start the second period. But the Walleye did not get a high quality chance.
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The Toledo Walleye found yet another agonizing way to lose Sunday, this time by painting themselves into a corner with eight penalties in the third period. Toledo took a 4-1 lead on South Carolina with 14:50 left at Lucas County Arena. But the Walleye spent the majority of the final period in the penalty box, and the Stingrays scored two power play goals and then tied it at 4 with 3:02 remaining. Toledo coach Nick Vitucci vigorously questioned the officiating in the third period in which South Carolina outshot the Walleye 23-5.