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.
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: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade