Toledo defenseman J.C. Sawyer proved once again why he is one of the top players in the ECHL last night.
Sawyer scored two goals, including his league-leading sixth game winner, to spark the Walleye to a 3-1 win over Trenton. Toledo rookie goalie Alec Richards also was brilliant, finishing with 30 saves to the delight of an energetic sellout crowd of 8,000 at Lucas County Arena.
Walleye forward Bryan Ewing also maintained his hot streak with a goal and an assist. Sawyer leads all ECHL defensemen in scoring with 15 goals and 18 assists.
"I'm just getting in the right spots at the right time," Sawyer said. "I feel like I get in a zone and that I can make plays happen every time I get the puck."
Last month, Sawyer was named a starter in the ECHL all-star game. Last night, he helped Toledo (19-13-4) beat Trenton (12-14-8) for the second straight game.
Richards (10-3-4) has now defeated the Devils three times. He shut out Trenton on Oct. 24 and earned the win in relief on Friday night.
With his team up 2-1 early in the third period, Richards made a sliding save to prevent a Devils' power play goal. Moments later, Richards' kick save thwarted another chance as Toledo killed off three penalties in the third.
"I was seeing the puck well," Richards said. "It's big for the team and good for my confidence."
Then with 10:15 left Richards came up with a tremendous save to maintain the one-goal cushion. Richards moved side-to-side to stop another opportunity.
"We've come to expect that from Alec and he delivered again tonight," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said.
Ewing then put it away with a one-timer on an assist from Mike Hedden with 4:55 left.
Richards came up with two more saves with 2:01 and 45 seconds left.
"Alec shined the most [in the third]," Sawyer said. "He came through in the clutch."
Richards said he was actually glad to face 17 shots in the third period after Trenton had just seven in each of the first two periods.
"I wanted to get in some work because it's tough when you only face seven shots per period," Richards said. "When we got that third goal I knew we had it in the bag."
Sawyer's previous high for goals in a season was 15 in the major juniors in 2006-07.
"He just has a knack for being a big time player in big time situations," Vitucci said.
Ewing sent a perfect pass from behind the net to Sawyer who one-timed it by Dave Caruso (24 saves) to give the Walleye a 1-0 lead with 1:38 left in the first period. Sawyer scored the lone goal in Toledo's 1-0 shutout of Trenton on Oct. 24 and leads the team in goals. Ewing has five goals and nine points in his last six games.
Trenton's Jack Combs slipped one by Richards to tie it at 1 in the second.
Toledo went back up on Sawyer's second of the night with four minutes left in the second period. During a delayed penalty on Trenton, Sawyer took a pass from Hedden at the top of the circles and drilled it by Caruso.
Richards had been called up to the AHL where he played six games for Rockford (3-2-0). "Coming back down I wanted to get two wins," he said.
The Walleye are now 14-8-1 at home and have won two in a row. But they remain in third in the North Division. Toledo hosts Charlotte for the first time tonight at
"To get four points out of these two games is very satisfying," Vitucci said. "We hope to carry that momentum."
FISH TALES: Tonight is "Mascot Mania Night" and fans will have the opportunity to take pictures with several local mascots. The second intermission will include a mascot dodge ball contest. …Neither team scored on the power play. …Former Toledo Storm captain Jason Maleyko was in attendance. …Unlike Friday night's first period when the teams combined for six goals, only one was scored in the opening stanza last night. The teams scored 11 goals Friday. …The Walleye are 8-1-1 against East Division teams.
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