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Toledo Walleye lose to Fort Wayne in School Appreciation Day contest


Walleye goalie Kent Simpson, 35, blocks the shot by Fort Wayne Komets player Stephon Thorne, 29, during the second period Wednesday at Huntington Center.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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Toledo played its an­nual School Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Day game Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the Hun­ting­ton Center, but thou­sands of kids were not happy with the out­come as the Wall­eye dropped a de­ci­sion to Fort Wayne.

Too many de­fen­sive break­downs al­lowed the Komets to rally from a late def­i­cit and post a 4-2 win.

Toledo for­ward By­ron Froese tal­lied a go-ahead goal with 12 min­utes, 54 sec­onds left, but Fort Wayne tied it a lit­tle more than four min­utes later.

Photo gallery: Toledo Walleye vs. Fort Wayne

The Komets took a 3-2 lead with 7:36 left as Stephon Thorne scored af­ter Fort Wayne won a face­off deep in the Wall­eye end. Thorne skated in alone to tally the game-win­ning goal. The Komets added an empty net goal with 1:02 re­main­ing.

A de­fen­sive lapse led to a solo break­away and the ty­ing goal.

“This is cer­tainly not ac­cept­able,” Wall­eye coach Nick Vitucci said.

Vitucci said a team must play “mis­take free” to hold on to late leads.

“You have to play within your own job de­scrip­tion,” he said. “If you look at two of those goals, play­ers are try­ing to do some­body else's job, which doesn't work very well. On the missed face­off as­sign­ment, that's some­thing you learn in pee wee hockey, and it was missed. It's frus­trat­ing.”

Toledo lost its fourth straight be­fore a crowd of 6,802 that con­sisted mostly of bois­ter­ous school chil­dren.

“It was re­ally hard to hear,” said Froese, who now has two goals and a team-high four as­sists. “It's tough when you can't hear your team­mate call­ing. You have to bat­tle through. But it was great to have the kids scream­ing and hav­ing fun.”

Fort Wayne tied it at two when Josh Brit­tain scored on a break­away with 8:32 left.

“Just too many mis­takes and sim­ple missed as­sign­ments,” Vitucci said.

Toledo (4-5-1) fell be­hind ini­tially but tied the game late in the open­ing pe­riod. Rookie Luke Glen­den­ing de­flected a shot by Phil Rauch from the point to tie it with 4:35 left in first open­ing pe­riod.

Fort Wayne tal­lied the first goal as Jean-Mi­chel Rizk notched a power play marker.

Toledo goalie Kent Simp­son (2-3-1), who fin­ished with 20 saves, was left hung out to dry on a few oc­ca­sions.

“We need to take care of our own end,” Simp­son said. “I felt good out there and I made some big saves. It's frus­trat­ing but some­time that is the way hockey goes.”

Glen­den­ing is now tied for the team lead in goals scored with four. The right winger from the Univer­sity of Mich­i­gan also has two as­sists for six points in 10 games.

Fort Wayne (6-2-1) also de­feated Toledo 4-3 last Fri­day.

The Wall­eye had three con­sec­u­tive power plays dur­ing a six-minute span in the sec­ond pe­riod. They man­aged just two shots on all three with no shots on two of the man ad­van­tages.

The Wall­eye en­tered the game with the third worst power play in the ECHL. The team has scored just three power play goals on 38 chances.

“It's dis­ap­point­ing,” Vitucci said. “We didn't get re­sults and we didn't fin­ish on them. We moved it around de­cently. But we're press­ing on the power play and search­ing for the right com­bi­na­tions.”

Dur­ing the power plays, the deci­bels reached ear-pierc­ing lev­els as thou­sands of kids screamed for a free bowl of chili if the Wall­eye scored with the man ad­van­tage.

“Some­times it's tough to try to get a mes­sage across on the bench and es­pe­cially on the power play be­cause there's a lot of is com­mu­ni­ca­tion and they can't hear,” Vitucci said. “But it pro­motes the game of hockey to some kids who may not oth­er­wise come to a game.”

The Wall­eye are in midst of play­ing four games in five days. The team plays at Wheel­ing on Fri­day be­fore re­turn­ing home for a re­match against the Nail­ers on Satur­day and then they host South Car­o­lina on Sun­day.

“It's tough,” Froese said. “We tried to keep it sim­ple and play our game. But a cou­ple bounces here and there and the game is dif­fer­ent. We'll get back at it Fri­day and we'll come out full speed.”

FISH TALES: Toledo is tied with three other teams for the most short­handed hands in the ECHL with three. ... It was the fourth time the or­ga­ni­za­tion held a morn­ing game, and the team is 1-3-0. The early af­fairs have proven to be wild. In 2009, Evan Rankin scored the game win­ner in over­time as Toledo beat Kal­a­ma­zoo 5-4. Last sea­son, Chi­cago and Toledo com­bined for 11 goals as the Ex­press won 7-4. Simp­son said it was a great at­mo­sphere. “Com­ing to the rink early was def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent,” Simp­son said. “I just wish the out­come was dif­fer­ent.”

Con­tact Mark Mon­roe at: mmon­roe@the­, 419-724-6354 or on Twit­ter @Mon­roeBlade


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