Using words like flat, stale, stuck in quicksand, and lazy, Walleye coach Nick Vitucci called his team painful to watch Wednesday night.
In an offensive shootout, Toledo could not keep pace with Kalamazoo, falling behind by two goals on four occasions. The Walleye gave up four goals in the first period -- including three on the first four shots of the game -- and lost 7-4 despite playing in front of a packed house of 7,446 at the Huntington Center.
"We deserved to be behind [all game]," Vitucci said. "We were completely out of sync from the get-go. We put our backs against the wall, and we tried to claw back. But we couldn't get inside that two-goal cushion. We were slow all night."
The loss snapped a two-game win streak this week for Toledo (11-15-3), which fell to 5-8-1 at home. The game was not even halfway over and eight goals had been scored, with the K-Wings (12-13-3) taking a 5-3 lead.
Walleye forward Andy Bohmbach scored twice and had an assist. His linemates Dominic Osman (goal and an assist) and Evan Rankin (two assists) also contributed.
"It's tough giving up four goals in the first," Bohmbach said. "You never want to start like that. We had mental breakdowns in our D-zone."
Down 5-3, Toledo's rookie forward scored his second goal of the game with 3:39 left. The rebound goal was created on a great effort by Rankin, who went hard to the net.
"There certainly was no quit from their team," Kalamazoo coach Nick Bootland said. "But we had timely scoring that killed any momentum they built."
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After a timeout with 1:27 remaining, Vitucci pulled his goalie. But Kalamazoo put it away with an empty-net goal just 18 seconds later.
In a wild first period, the teams combined for six goals. Kalamazoo took a 2-0 lead just 3:11 into the game. Toledo scored twice, but the K-Wings grabbed a 4-2 lead.
"This was their third game this week, so our game plan was to come out with high energy," Bootland said.
Kalamazoo veteran Kory Karlander, who came into the game ranked second in the ECHL with 30 points, had a goal and three assists.
Although Toledo starting goalie Thomas McCollum was not fully to blame, he was pulled in favor of Joe Palmer after the first period.
"None of those were his fault," Vitucci said. "I was trying to spark the team. We may have gotten too relaxed because Tommy was playing behind them."
McCollum, a No. 1 draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings, got his third consecutive start for the Walleye.
"We know he's a first rounder, and he had been standing on his head lately," Bootland said. "We just got traffic in front of him and put pucks on net."
Osman roofed a shot past Riley Gill (38 saves) on a quick pass from Bohmbach to pull Toledo to within 4-3 with 14:48 remaining in the second. But for the third time, Kalamazoo went up by two goals.
Torquato just missed making it 5-4 midway through the third when he hit the post on a two-on-one breakaway.
It took just 1:35 for Kalamazoo to strike first, and Kalamazoo scored twice before Toledo had a shot on goal. Toledo struck back however when Bohmbach tipped in a shot to make it 2-1 at the 6:38 mark of the first.
The K-Wings scored on three straight shots as Toledo led 11-5 in shots but trailed 3-1 with 9:46 to go in the first.
Yet the Walleye showed resiliency as Zack Torquato scored to make it 3-2 with 4:06 left in the first. But Kalamazoo answered only 27 seconds later for a 4-2 edge.
Rankin just missed notching the seventh goal of the period when he hit the post with 46 seconds left. Sebastien Piche also hit the pipe early in the second.
"It could have been a different game if those go in. But we can't have a bad start," Bohmbach said.
Toledo's Scott Fletcher went at it in a lengthy brawl with Bryan Jurynec late in the game. Fletcher got in big shots early, but Jurynec landed blows late.
The team's next game is on Saturday against Wheeling at 7 p.m. The contests will serve as a capper for the High School Hockey Day event with proceeds going to the Kyle Cannon Benefit Fund.
"This was a nice atmosphere, and it was fun to play in," Bootland said.
FISH TALES: The K-Wings' last goal came on another empty-netter with 28 seconds left. …The teams entered the game tied for third place in the ECHL North Division. … It has usually been a high-scoring affair when the division rivals have met this season. The teams have combined for an average of 7.7 goals per game in six contests. Toledo beat the K-Wings 8-0 on Nov. 12, while Kalamazoo won 7-2 on Oct. 22. The Walleye also won 4-1 on Sunday.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.