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Toledo jumped on first-place Chicago with two first-period goals and then rolled behind the solid play of goalie Carter Hutton on Wednesday night.
Hutton finished with 30 saves on 31 shots to lead Toledo to a 4-1 win over the Express before a crowd of 3,437 at the Huntington Center.
Captain Kyle Rogers and Christopher DiDomenico scored in the first period to give Toledo an all important 2-0 lead.
"We wanted to come out there with a good start and sure enough we got the two goals right off the hop," Rogers said. "We wanted to set the tone."
Newcomers Trevor Parkes and Byron Froese each scored their first goals as professionals in the third period for the Walleye. Parkes scored with one second left on a power play with 4:22 left. Froese added an empty net goal with one second left in the game on a shot from deep in his own end.
Toledo (8-9-0) has won two in a row and five of its last six.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said it was his team's most solid effort of the year.
"When you are playing with the lead it puts you in a different frame of mind," Vitucci said. "But that is a strong club and we knew they wouldn't go away and they got themselves right back in the game."
Chicago (11-6-2), which got a third-period goal from Mike Embach to pull within one, remains in first place in the ECHL North Division. The Walleye are in third.
Toledo is in the midst of an eight-game homestand and is 4-1-0 so far. The Walleye are now 6-4-0 at the Huntington Center this season.
Hutton, who started in his 11th straight game, helped Toledo kill off four Express power plays. He also had three solid saves in the second period.
Rogers got Toledo on the board 3:32 into the game on a nice pass from behind the net by Joey Martin. Rogers one timed the shot by Express goalie Rob Nolan (26 saves).
The Walleye seized a 2-0 lead on DiDomenico's perfectly placed shot over Nolan's left shoulder. DiDomenico skated up the slot and his sniper shot gave Nolan no chance to stop it. It was DiDomenico's first goal of the season.
"It's always great getting a cushion like that. Getting that second one was huge," Hutton said. "I was seeing the puck well."
Parkes had played in 14 games in the American Hockey League but had just one assist for Grand Rapids.
"They told me to come here to get some confidence and have fun and put the puck in the net," said Parkes, who was reassigned Monday.
"Hopefully this works for me. It's a big two points for this team."
Due to recent call ups Toledo is playing without their top four scorers this season. Harrison Reed (Houston), Evan Rankin (Rochester), Adam Estoclet (Grand Rapids), and Bryan Rufenach (Grand Rapids) all are playing in the AHL.
The team has been affected by 23 transactions in the last 16 days. Chicago had seven players in its lineup that had reached double figures in points, while Toledo had none. Reed, Rankin, and Estoclet formed the team's most productive line.
"Our top four scorers [are gone] and that line was tearing up the league," Vitucci said.
"It's nice to have these talented players come down here. The tough part is getting it all on the same page. It was nice to see those players step up. What a great goal by Trevor Parkes to finalize that game with his first pro goal and it was nice to see Fraz get his goal with a second left."
Rogers has scored three goals and has three assists in his last five games.
"The guys that came down played great for us," Rogers said.
Rogers and the Walleye were flying in the first period as he had two big hits along the boards. They outshot Chicago 14-8. The teams finished with 31 shots apiece.
The Express pulled within one as Embach beat Hutton on their first shot of the third period.
Toledo hit the post twice early in the third period. The Walleye killed off Chicago's third power play of the game to maintain the one-goal lead. Hutton made a sliding save late in the power play.
"He is just as solid as can be and then he comes up with a half dozen really big saves to keep us in there," Vitucci said.
Toledo hosts Greenville on Friday and Chicago once again on Saturday.
FISH TALES: Toledo is now 2-3-0 against the Express. The Walleye beat the Express 4-1 on Nov. 16. … The Walleye have scored 26 of their 53 goals in the third period. … Former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Barry Smith was in attendance last night. Smith helped lead Detroit to three Stanley Cups. He is now a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks. … Estoclet was called up to Grand Rapids on Monday, while Reed signed a player tryout agreement with Houston of the AHL on Wednesday.
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.