Shorthanded Walleye fall to Greenville
Toledo runs into hot goalie
The Walleye's Andy Bohmbach moves in for a shot on Greenville goalie Nic Riopel, who earned his second shutout of the season. He stopped 24 Toledo shots.
The Walleye couldn't overcome their severely depleted defensive unit, and they were shut out by first-place Greenville 3-0 Saturday night.
Toledo was playing without four of its regular defensemen and had just 24 shots on goal. With 17 games left in the regular season, Toledo (25-25-4) continues to teeter on the brink of making the ECHL playoffs. It fell out of the final spot.
"I'm thrilled with our effort considering what our roster looks like now," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. "We were playing a first-place team, and we have half of a team. I'll go pull six sparkplugs out of your car and see how it runs."
The Walleye went 0-of-4 on the power play before a capacity crowd of 8,000 at the Huntington Center. It was the seventh sellout of the season.
The team's defensive corps has taken a huge hit. Dave Phillips was injured, Simon Danis-Pepin was called up to Rockford of the AHL, Sebastien Piche was at home for personal reasons, and Scott Fletcher was serving a suspension for a fight in Friday's game. Rookie forward Zack Torquato also was called up to Rockford.
To counter the losses, right winger Dominic Osman was moved to defense.
"None of us feel sorry for ourselves," Osman said. "We deserved a better outcome tonight. We played as hard as we could. We just couldn't buy a goal."
The team also signed forwards John May and NHL veteran Mike Wilson. Wilson, 37, played in the NHL for nine seasons with the last in 2002-03 with the Rangers.
"It's tough," forward Mike Hedden said. "But we've had this before. The guys that came down did a heck of a job."
Toledo's Randy Rowe watches his shot deflect off of Nic Riopel and roll away at the Huntington Center. A capacity crowd of 8,000 watched the Walleye fall out of the final playoff spot.
Greenville (33-20-3), which is in first in the South Division, got two goals in the first and put it away with another in the third.
Toledo has fallen into a habit lately of falling behind early, and it happened again when Greenville scored 8:55 into the game. The Walleye are 5-19-1 when trailing after the first period. The Road Warriors maintained the two-goal edge into the third. Toledo is 3-18-0 when trailing after two periods.
"We just came out flat again," Hedden said. "The first period has been our downfall lately. It's tough being down early to a team like this. And we ran into a hot goaltender."
Greenville's Nic Riopel earned his second shutout, finishing with 24 saves.
Toledo goalie Thomas McCollum, who was the Detroit Red Wings' No. 1 draft choice in 2008, gave up three goals on 27 shots.
McCollum had no chance to stop Greenville's first goal on Jimmy Kilpatrick's backdoor goal. But he would have liked to have Marc-Olivier Vellerand's power-play marker back as he let up a soft goal. Toledo fell behind 2-0 with 1:45 left in the first.
"Sure you want him to make that save. But he was pretty solid for us," Vitucci said.
Each team had just 15 shots apiece through two periods.
The Road Warriors put it out of reach when Andrew Rowe created his own solo break and beat McCollum to make it 3-0 with 8:16 left.
Osman has moved back to defense for a handful of games this year and last season.
"[Vitucci] has enough confidence in me to put me back there," Osman said. "Anything that I can do to help the team, especially when we're banged up and shorthanded."
The Walleye, coming off an 8-5 loss in Kalamazoo on Friday, remain in last place in the North Division. They now trail Elmira (55 points) for the final playoff spot.
"Every game is huge. We need the two points, especially [today]," Hedden said.
Toledo can gain ground when it hosts first-place Kalamazoo Sunday at 4 p.m.
Fletcher will return today, but Vitucci said he may be missing a few forwards who were injured Saturday night.
"It is what it is," Osman said. "We'll come out [today] with the same mentality." FISH TALES:
The organization remains optimistic as playoff tickets will go on a sale on March 5. …Toledo is now 13-13-2 at home. …In the pivotal month of March, the team has six home games and eight on the road… Toledo's 24 shots were just one more than its season low in a game.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.