Walleye coach Nick Vitucci ripped into his underachieving team in the dressing room between periods Friday night, but he had to issue another lengthy tongue lashing after a lackluster 7-2 defeat at the hands of Kalamazoo.
"I'm disappointed in them," Vitucci said. "I was trying to get into their heads a little bit. We should have more heart and desire. We had too much uncertainty and ultimately your confidence drops."
Toledo was shut out in its home opener last Saturday and did not score in the first period of Friday night's tilt against the K-Wings. The Walleye went 93 minutes and 42 seconds before scoring their first goal at the Huntington Center this season.
Kalamazoo scored two goals in the first, three in the second, and two more in the third. Toledo goalie Jordan Pearce stopped just 10 of 15 shots before being pulled with 9:21 left in the second period.
In game No. 3 of a 72-game season, a crowd of 5,024 saw Toledo fall to 1-2-0. Veteran Randy Rowe scored the first home goal of the season. It was the 200th of his career.
"It's too early to panic," Rowe said. "But it's a good wakeup call. We're hard-working. We just need to use our heads more. It's only been three games.
"Nick is the most honest coach I've had in my 10 years. I feel bad that we're letting him down. He told us we need to put together a 60-minute effort. We need to gel more. Toledo is a great hockey city, and they deserve more out of us."
Toledo has been outscored 13-2 in two home games this season. Vitucci said his team, which outshot the Wings 34-26, is pressing.
"We have players that can score," he said.
Kalamazoo goaltender Ryan Nie, who led the ECHL in wins with 28 last season, finished with 32 saves.
Rowe, who leads the team in scoring with two goals and an assist, scored when Evan Rankin went hard to the net. Rowe knocked in the loose puck late in the second.
But the Walleye already had given up five goals.
However, Mike Hedden scored three minutes later to make it 5-2. Hedden charged to the net and knocked a rebound home.
The Walleye continued to show some life when Ryan Stokes beat up Kalamazoo captain Wes O'Neill in a late second-period fight.
"We showed glimpses of the team we could be in the second period," Vitucci said.
But Kalamazoo scored on its first shot of the third to reclaim a four-goal cushion.
"That was it," Vitucci said. "You could see our shoulders sag."
Pearce let in two soft goals and was pulled to provide a spark late in the second.
"He struggled," Vitucci said. "He let a couple in that he'd like to have back. But we also hung him out to dry."
Kalamazoo went up 3-0 just moments after Toledo could not cash in on a
5-on-3 advantage that lasted 45 seconds. Jon A. Landry scored his second of the night.
The Walleye host Cincinnati next Friday. Vitucci said he expects three injured players, Scooter Smith, Scott Fletcher, and Dominic Osman, to be back in the lineup.
FISH TALES: Kyle Rogers had an assist for Toledo. … It was the season-opener for Kalamazoo, which returns 11 players from last season's North Division championship team. …The Wings went 3 of 8 on the power play. Toledo was 0 of 5. … The Wings seized a 4-0 lead at the midpoint when they scored with a two-man advantage. … The Walleye successfully killed off three penalties in the first period.
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