The 8,000 spectators that packed Lucas County Arena last night got their money's worth in a wild goal-scoring fest.
Both Toledo and Charlotte earned a much deserved point by sending the game into overtime, but the Walleye emerged with a 6-5 victory and the extra point. Chris Robertson capped a solo breakaway with the game-winner with just six seconds left in OT.
"They fumbled the puck and I just went right by him and turned with good speed," Robertson said. "I looked up at the clock and saw there was 11 seconds left. We worked on breakaways in practice and I didn't score once. I'm glad I saved it for the game."
In a contest that had a bit of everything, Toledo put 51 shots on net and rallied in the third period from a two-goal deficit with three unanswered goals only to see it tied with 40 second left in regulation. But Robertson gave Toledo (30-24-4) a second straight win.
"It's just an awesome feeling because this hometown crowd is unbelievable," he said.
In his Walleye debut, Akim Aliu collected two goals, including the go-ahead marker with 3:05 left. But Charlotte's Michel Leveille tied it with his fifth point of the night.
The magnitude of the game was intensified by the teams' close proximity in the playoff race. Toledo entered the contest as the seventh seed, four points behind the sixth-seeded Checkers (31-20-7).
"It was an exciting game," Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said. "All the sudden we were down by two goals. But we went out and battled. Anytime you're down 4-2, you'll take the two points."
The teams meet again today at 4 p.m. It was the eighth sellout of the year as the organization paid tribute to former Goaldigger and Blades players.
"I hope they enjoyed themselves. They are the true brick and mortar of this building," Vitucci said.
Toledo took a 2-0 edge early in the second period, but Charlotte scored the next four goals to seize a 4-2 advantage heading into the third.
But Maxime Tanguay's power play goal made it 4-3 and 20 seconds later Adam Keefe scored his first of the season to tie it with 12:43 left in regulation.
With the crowd amped up, Toledo continued to apply pressure. Goalie Jordan Pearce then preserved the tie by sliding over for a save with 6:57 left.
Charlotte was then assessed a penalty after Evan Rankin was decked after play had stopped. Aliu scored the power goal only to be matched by Leveille who scored after the Checkers' goalie was pulled.
"We came out gunning in the third. It's nice to contribute," Aliu said. "It's unbelievable to see how wild it is here."
Each team had chances in overtime, but both goalies stood up to the tests. Pearce finished with 23 saves, Ryan Munce had 45.
Aliu, a Kiev, Russia native, scored to give Toledo a 1-0 lead 1:47 into the second period. Just 44 seconds later, the Walleye went up 2-0 on Mike Hedden's 15th goal.
But Charlotte rallied to tie it with 7:19 to go in the second. A turnover by Toledo in its own end allowed Charlotte to grab a 3-2 lead. The Checkers then tallied a controversial goal when Peace looked to have made a leg save as the puck was frozen along the goal line. But Andrew Carroll jammed at the puck and pushed it in for a 4-2 lead with 29 seconds left. Pearce went wild and Vitucci was livid, but the goal counted.
FISH TALES: Toledo's Sebastien Piche roughed up Jean-Phillip Chabot in a late fight. …In a penalty filled first period, neither team scored. Nine infractions were called. Charlotte went 0 of 5 on the power play, while Toledo was 0 of 4. …Toledo has just 13 games left in the regular season, including four at home. …Toledo newcomer Simon Danis-Pepin (6-7) defeated Devin DiDiomete (5-11) in a fight.
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