The Huntington Center rocked with energy Saturday night as the Toledo Walleye won a penalty and fight-filled battle with Chicago.
Three fights and 82 minutes of penalties were called, entertaining the crowd of 5,675. Toledo emerged from the mayhem with a 4-1 win over the Express.
Toledo forwards Aaron Lewicki and Trevor Parkes each scored two goals. Parkes notched the game-winner and sealed it with a goal with 9:58 left.
“This is a great place with great fans,” said Parkes, who led the team with five shots. “They really got us into it. They were behind us and that is always big.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Walleye defeat Chicago Express
Walleye goalie Ryan Zapolski, who was signed by Toledo on Nov. 23, got his first start of the season. Zapolski acquitted himself very well playing in just his second pro game as he finished with 27 saves.
“I definitely felt comfortable,” said Zapolski, who held the Express scoreless over the final two periods. “The team did well in front of me. The fans get into it. The way the game went with all the fights and it was kind of chippy, the fans like that. When the fans are up, the guys are up.”
Walleye defenseman Matt Krug got into two fights, while Phil Rauch got into another.
Toledo (9-10-0) has won six of its last eight to remain in third place in the ECHL North Division. Chicago (11-7-2) got a goal from Chaz Johnson but fell to second in the division.
The Walleye lineup looked much different again due to injuries and call-ups. The team has seen 27 transactions in the last 16 days.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of this hockey club and the effort they put forth tonight,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “We went in the trenches and stood toe to toe with them as far as the physical play and toughness.”
Zapolski got the start after goaltender Carter Hutton, who had started in 12 straight games, got called up to Rockford early on Saturday. Zapolski had eight saves in the second and 11 in the third.
“He was really an unknown,” Vitucci said. “But he is known now. It was a great effort and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
It was the sixth meeting between the North Division foes and a rivalry appears to developing. The Express won the first three match ups, but Toledo has won the last three.
“It is getting heated,” Vitucci said. “They have guys over there that compete. It’s nice to see us reaching that competition level against them.”
Lewicki scored his second of the night with 2:42 left in the second period. Lewicki scored shorthanded to give his team a 3-1 lead. Lewicki scored on his own rebound after he and Kyle Rogers had a two on one breakaway. Parkes scored his second of the night on a nice backhander to make it 4-1 with 9:58 left in the game.
“It was a big win tonight,” Parkes said. “Those guys were physical and we stuck with them.”
Just 16 seconds into the game, Krug got into a brief fight with Bobby Robins.
Toledo took an early 1-0 lead on a beautiful play from Gleason Fournier to Lewicki, who deflected the puck out of midair. The power play goal came with exactly 10 minutes left in the first. The Walleye went up 2-0 when Parkes deflected a pass from Rogers with 6:52 left in the first period.
Chicago struck back with just 16.2 seconds left in the first on Johnson’s goal.
Thirty seconds into the second period, Krug went at it once again with Robins. This time Robins got the best of Krug. Another scuffle broke out as Toledo’s Joey Ryan threw Scott Lehman to the ice and slugged him repeatedly.
Another fight broke out midway through the second period as Rauch went at it with Scott Wietecha. Rauch won the brawl at the end.
Zapolski helped the Walleye shutdown the Express power play as they went 0 of 7.
“I have been waiting for an opportunity like this,” he said. “Hopefully I can take advantage of it.”
The Walleye completed the seventh game of an eight game homestand and are 5-2-0 in that stretch.
FISH TALES: Rogers finished with two assists. … The team signed F John May and added goaltender Christian Davis as an emergency backup. Davis, a former St. John’s Jesuit goalie, served as an emergency back up for the Walleye last season. … Toledo is now 6-1-0 when leading after two periods of play.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.