Toledo Walleye goalie Petr Mrazek (1), Cody Lampl (32), and Byron Froese (24) defend the net against Kalamazoo.
Everything went swimmingly for the Walleye in their home and season opener as Toledo scored single goals in the first two periods and added two more in the third to win Saturday night.
Max Campbell scored twice and had an assist, while Andrej Nestrasil had a goal and two assists to lead Toledo to a 4-1 victory over Kalamazoo.
Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek earned the win in his pro debut by stopping 33 shots.
A sellout crowd of 8,000 at the Huntington Center saw Toledo win its home opener for the first time.
“It was a great start,” coach Nick Vitucci said. “We thought we had good goaltending and good defense with good speed and skill on offense. You're unsure until you get out there and see how it looks. But game one we are very happy about it. These guys have impressed us all week and they continued to do so tonight. This will help our confidence.”
Willie Coetzee tacked on another goal 7:02 into the third period and Campbell scored an empty netter for the final margin.
Campbell, Nestrasil, and Travis Novak formed an instantly effective line. Novak assisted on two goals.
“That was the first time we played together,” Campbell said. “I didn't practice with them at all this week. But they are two great skill players and it was easy to play with them. The place was packed and it was awesome to get the first win of the season.”
Kalamazoo's Elgin Reid scored a power play goal with 3:16 left to ruin Mrazek's shutout bid. Mrazek, who is a fifth round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings, was solid throughout the contest.
“I was very excited before the game because it was my first pro game in North America,” said Mrazek, a 20-year-old who played three season of major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. “I hope I can be good all the time like that. We have great guys who work hard and have good attitudes.”
Kalamazoo goalie Joel Martin finished with 27 saves on 30 shots. The Wings (1-1-0) won on the road Friday.
Campbell, a center, scored the first goal of the season for the Walleye 3:36 into game. Nestrasil made a nice pass from behind the Wings' net out to Campbell who beat Martin.
Campbell, 23, played for Stockton and Greenville (29 points in 50 games) of the ECHL last season. He is in his second season after a four-year college career at Western Michigan.
Novak, 24, is in his first full season after playing at St. Cloud State.
Nestrasil made it 2-0 just 1:55 into the second period. Nestrasil was at the side of the crease when he took a pass from Campbell and banged it home.
Nestrasil, 21, started his pro career in Toledo last season. Nestrasil, a third round draft pick of the Red Wings,played in 51 games and had 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists) last season.
Willie Coetzee gave Toledo a 3-0 cushion with 12:58 remaining. Coetzee jumped on a loose puck and shoveled it past Martin.
In the third, Mrazek made three terrific saves to protect the shutout before the Wings power play goal.
“I don't care about the shutout,” Mrazek said. “We won as a team and that is most important.”
Walleye defenseman Phil Oreskovic completely leveled Eric Kattelus with a big check in the second period. Kattelus laid on the ice before being helped off the ice. The hit looked clean but Oreskovic (6-3, 245) was called for charging, a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
But Toledo completely shutdown the Wings' lengthy power play and did even allow a shot. The Walleye had the better quality chances while shorthanded as Coetzee and Phil Rauch just missed on shots. Nestrasil then had a chance on a solo break just after the penalty expired.
Rauch, a St. Francis de Sales graduate, got into a crowd-rousing fight with 29 seconds left.
The Walleye next host Cincinnati on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. and it will be the last home game in October for Toledo. The team is then on the road for five straight games beginning at Kalamazoo next Saturday.
FISH TALES: The Walleye had a five on three advantage for 29 seconds late in the first period. Campbell's shot hit the post and Toledo could not convert on the power play. … Vitucci said his team's penalty kill unit, which allowed one goal on six opportunities, was very good and Mrazek led the way.
“Petr was fantastic,” Vitucci said. “I think we will have a lot of fun with our goaltenders with him and Kent Simpson. He showed why he is a world class goalie.” …. Kalamazoo defeated Fort Wayne 4-1 in the Wings' season opener on Friday night. Kalamzoo scored four goals to spoil Fort Wayne's debut in the ECHL. The game attracted a crowd of 10,091. Former Walleye D Kyle Page, who played at Bowling Green State University, is on Kalamazoo's roster but was a scratch and did not play in Saturday's game.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.
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