The renewal of a former longstanding minor league hockey rivalry Friday was an intense battle as Toledo squared off against the Fort Wayne Komets at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye briefly held an early lead, then fell behind in the second period before tying it in the third period. But Fort Wayne scored on two of three shots in the final period to hand Toledo a 4-3 loss.
The teams combined for four goals in a wild third period.
Toledo (4-3-1) lost for the first time at home, while Fort Wayne (4-2-1) pulled into a tie with Toledo for third place in the ECHL North Division.
Rookie Luke Glendening, who had a goal and an assist, was paired on a line with veterans Randy Rowe and Kyle Rogers. Rowe had a goal, and Rogers added two assists.
Toledo pulled within a goal when Willie Coetzee scored to make it 4-3 with 9 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. The Walleye pulled goalie Jordan Pearce with 1:45 left but could not get the equalizer despite some quality chances on Komets goalie Charlie Effinger, who finished with 23 saves.
Toledo returned from a road game at Wheeling at 2:30 a.m. Friday, and Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said his team came out of the gate slowly.
“Some bus legs may have played into that,” he said. “But in the second and third periods we put our best foot forward. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them at the end. The guys never quit.”
The Walleye still scored first when Glendening tallied a shorthanded goal as he finished a two-on-one breakaway with Rogers with a one-timer.
But the Komets tied it on a power play goal just 35 seconds later, then grabbed a 2-1 lead on a tipped shot by Brent Henley with 8:15 left in the second period.
Toledo tied it at 2 on Rowe's third goal of the season 1:42 into the third. Rogers and Glendening assisted as Rowe extended his point streak to five games. A Komets defenseman actually shoved in the puck, but the Walleye posted get the power play goal with 18:18 left.
“We battled,” Glendening said. “Our line is working hard. Those guys are older and have showed me the way. We try to keep it simple.”
Fort Wayne regained a 3-2 lead as Jean-Michel Rizk capitalize on a Walleye turnover with 16:18 left. Thomas Beauregard then tallied the Komets' second goal of the third period.
The Walleye had a power play right after the Komets took the lead but Effinger made a good save, and the Walleye's Byron Froese hit the post.
Pearce made his 2012 debut for the Walleye after being assigned from the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Pearce, who started his pro career with the Walleye in 2009, finished with 17 saves.
Fort Wayne joined the ECHL this season. The addition rekindled a rivalry with Toledo teams. The cities had teams that played each other from 1952 to 1985.
The teams play 10 more times this season.
“This should be great,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. “It was a tense game. Our fans came by the bus load and they support the team. Toledo fans will definitely make the trip to Fort Wayne too. It should be a great battle.”
The last time the teams met was in December, 1985, the final season for the Toledo Goaldiggers. Both teams played in the International Hockey League at the time.
The Komets franchise, established in 1952, most recently competed in the Central Hockey League and won the title last season. Toledo’s Mercurys, Blades, Hornets, and Goaldiggers faced the Komets over the years.
There were a good number of orange Komet jerseys sprinkled among the 5,161 spectators at the Huntington Center. Fans made the 1-hour, 45-minute drive to see the renewal of the once-heated rivalry.
“It will be a fun rivalry all season long,” Vitucci said. “They're very similar to us. We can let the fans from years gone by decide where this fits in their ranking of the series.”
Toledo outshot Fort Wayne 26-21, including 11-3 in the third period.
The Walleye host Evansville at 7:05 p.m. today.
Glendening, who was the captain at the University of Michigan the past two seasons, said Rowe and Rogers are helping him learn how to play three games in three nights. Toledo lost 3-2 to Wheeling on Thursday.
“At the beginning we were rusty but after that we played well,” said Glendening, who has three goals and two assists in eight games. “It's tough but it's part of the league. We dropped a point last night and two tonight. So we need to play well [tonight.]”
FISH TALES: The Walleye came in tied for third with two shorthanded goals. … Rogers on has played in his 145 games in a Toledo uniform and has now appeared in more games than any other player.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.