Kory Karlander loses control of the puck as he gets checked by the Walleye's Kyle Page Sunday afternoon at the Huntington Center.
The ECHL season met its midpoint Sunday afternoon for the Walleye, and Toledo enters the second half on a bit of a high note with points in four straight games.
Toledo entered the week having dropped six straight, but the Walleye have started to right the ship with six points in their last four games.
Toledo rallied to tie Kalamazoo late in the third period on Sunday to earn one point by sending it to overtime. The Walleye lost 2-1 in a shootout before a crowd of 4,859 at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye trailed 1-0 before Harrison Reed evened the game at 1 with 1:47 left in regulation with a power-play goal. Joey Martin and Kyle Rogers scored in the shootout, but three Wings players scored to give Kalamazoo the win.
Toledo (15-18-2) entered the game having won two in a row, including a 5-4 win over Kalamazoo on the road on Saturday night. The Walleye also earned a point in an overtime loss on Wednesday at Wheeling.
"I'm very pleased," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. "In four games, we got six out of eight points that were out there. We didn't lose a game in regulation."
The Walleye, who have been mired in the basement of the North Division, are now two points out of third place and five out of second place. The loss of players to call-ups to the American Hockey League, and injuries have constantly altered the team's roster in the first 36 games.
"It's been a very tough first half with all the movement and the constant juggling of this roster," Vitucci said. "Hopefully the second half will bring more consistency to our lineup and our play too. From where we were a week ago to where we are now is a different place. We have to continue that."
The Walleye salvaged a point on Sunday by asserting heavy pressure looking for the equalizer in the third. The steady effort led to a power play and the tying goal as Reed scored on a one timer.
"It was a pretty good four-game segment for us," Reed said.
"We got six of eight points, so it's a confidence boost for this team. It's taken a lot of hard work, and we have to keep doing that as a team so that we can win and stay on the right track."
Toledo goalie Dustin Carlson made his second start of the season and finished with 25 saves. Carlson, who was signed as a free agent on Dec. 27, earned his first win on Saturday. He finished with seven saves after replacing Rob Nolan in the second period after Nolan yielded four goals.
Carlson was strong in both the first and second periods on Sunday. But the Wings' Maxime Clermont, who had 31 stops, also was very solid for Kalamazoo.
Carlson, who played at Ohio State University from 2007 to 2010, is in his second pro season. He is the fifth goalie to start for Toledo.
"He has played well in the last game and a half," Vitucci said. "Rob Nolan has struggled but has had success at the pro level. We're not sure if any [goalies] will be coming down [from the AHL]. It doesn't sound like it. So we'll let them battle it out."
The Wings scored just 18 seconds into the third period to take the 1-0 lead.
Darryl Bootland, who played one season for the Toledo Storm, scored on a deflection. The Wings (21-13-3) remain in first place in the North, 12 points ahead of Toledo.
The Walleye finished with a 32-27 edge in shots on goal, but Kalamazoo outshot Toledo 2-1 in the scoreless overtime.
In the shootout, Carlson stoned the first four shooters he faced including a terrific stick save on Kory Karlander. Clermont stopped three Walleye shooters before Martin beat him through his legs.
The shootout went eight rounds before Nick Sirota scored the game-winner. Carlson stopped five shooters, while Clermont stopped six.
Martin, who extended his points streak to five games, hit the crossbar with 8:32 left in the game as the Walleye mounted a late attack.
"We were working hard all over the ice," Reed said. "We were cycling and getting a lot of shots."
After scoring eight goals in six games, Toledo has scored nine times in the last three. The Walleye were 0-5-1 before winning two in a row and getting the one point Sunday.
"This was four games in five nights for both teams, and you expect it be a little sloppy and sluggish. Both teams looked a little tired, but played very hard," Vitucci said. "The shootouts are a crapshoot. We're happy with how [regulation] ended. Sure you'd like that extra point, but it's nothing to throw garbage cans about."
The Walleye's next three games are on the road. Toledo does not return home until Jan. 27 when the Walleye host Chicago.
FISH TALES: D Brian Rufenach was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. … F David Toews has been battling sickness and missed his second straight game. … Bootland, who played in six games for the Detroit Red Wings in 2006-07, now has six goals against Toledo this season. … Six tripping penalties were called, including the first five penalties. … The teams have met six teams this season, and Kalamazoo leads the series 4-2-0. The North Division foes will meet eight more times . … Carlson made a quick glove save early in the first period to keep it scoreless, and F Matt Krug administered a huge hit along K-Wings' blueline. … Kalamazoo looked as though it had scored on the power play with 6:48 left in the first, but ref Andy Thackaberry had blown the play dead before the puck trickled between Carlson's legs.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.
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