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A capacity crowd of 8,200 at the Huntington Center soaked up a thriller on Saturday night only to see the Toledo Walleye’s furious rally fall short.
In a wild second period, Toledo and Reading combined for eight goals.
The Walleye trailed 4-0 with 15 minutes left in the second period, but they reeled off four unanswered goals over a span of 7:18 to tie it as the jam packed arena rocked with energy.
PHOTO GALLERY: Toledo Walleye vs. Reading Royals
Reading’s Dave Mitchell tallied the game winner in the waning moments of the middle period to send the Royals to a 5-4 victory.
Toledo had a half dozen high quality chances over the last five minutes of the game, but Reading goalie Jussi Rynnas earned the win with 28 saves.
Toledo captain Kyle Rogers scored two goals on two shots in the second period. Aaron Lewicki tallied a power play goal and Harrison Reed scored shorthanded for the Walleye.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci called a timeout after Reading scored two goals during the first 1:28 of the second period to seize a 3-0 lead.
“The timeout that coach called was huge for us,” said Rogers, who leads the team with 13 goals. “He got us going. Something needed to be said and he took the timeout to do it. It paid off. We got four goals. We were down but we didn’t stop. We fed off the fans. As soon as we got the first one the fans were going nuts out there.”
Toledo finally got its first shot of the second period with 11:53 left. The Walleye got on the board as Rogers scored on a nice cross-ice pass from Bryan Rufenach to make it 4-1 with 11:21 left in the second.
Lewicki scored a power play goal to make 4-2 with 9:40 to go in second.
After not registering a shot over the first 8:07 of the second period, the Walleye put eight shots on goal over the next two and a half minutes.
Rogers scored on a nice backhander to pull Toledo within a goal. Rogers skated out front, and beat Rynnas to make it 4-3 with 5:11 left in the second period.
The amazing outburst was capped by Reed’s shorthander that tied it at 4 with 4:03 left in the second.
Vitucci said he “blasted” his team for playing tentatively during the timeout.
“I wanted them to be more aggressive. I wanted them to dig in,” Vitucci said. “I was happy with the way they responded. We outscored them 4-1 the rest of the way. Both coaches are probably dumbfounded by that second period. But I was happy with our compete level when we were down 4-0. We made a game of it. But we came up a little short.”
Toledo goalie Rob Nolan made 10 saves on 14 shots before being pulled from the game. Dustin Carlson, his replacement, yielded the decisive goal and finished with 15 saves
In three games against each other this season, Toledo and Reading have combined for 26 goals. The Walleye have won twice (5-3 and 5-4).
After starting the weekend with a 3-2 home win over Chicago, Toledo (17-20-3) fell to 10-11-2 at the Huntington Center.
Casey Haines scored twice for Reading (18-18-6).
The Royals scored three goals in the second period before the Walleye managed to get a shot.
A bad turnover by Reed deep in the Walleye end led to the Royals’ second goal. Haines scored his second of the night 45 seconds into the period. Reading tacked on another as Denny Urban beat Nolan with a soft goal to make it 3-0 with 1:28 to go in the middle period.
Ryan Cruthers scored Reading’s fourth of the game, chasing Nolan out of the Walleye net.
Vitucci said bad decisions in the Walleye zone led to turnovers and four Royal goals.
A little more than three and a half minutes after Rogers scored the tying maker, Mitchell scored the winner with a power play goal.
In the third Riley Emmerson and Nick Oslund had two quality chances for Toledo but Rynnas made the saves with less than six minutes left. David Gilbert, Bryan Rufenach, and Jeremy Tucker also had good chances but Reading maintained the one-goal lead with 3:15 left. With 35 seconds left Gilbert had two more high quality opportunities in front of the fifth capacity crowd this season at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye, who are in 11th place in the 12-team Eastern Conference, travel to Johnstown to play Wheeling on Sunday at 6 p.m. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
“We’re pretty down right now but we made a great effort to come back,” Rogers said. “We have to look at the positives. We battled back and we have to take that into the next game. We need these two points [on Sunday].”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.