Perseverance led to an unbelievable stroke of late luck for the Walleye last night as Toledo stunned Kalamazoo with a dramatic come-from-behind triumph.
Toledo defenseman Max Nicastro, playing in his first game with the team, scored with exactly one second left in regulation to send it to overtime.
Veteran defenseman Wes O'Neill scored the game winner with 1:54 remaining in OT on a terrific passing play from Joey Martin and Kyle Rogers. Toledo scored three unanswered late in the game and emerged with an improbable 3-2 win.
“Hockey is a funny game,” O'Neill said. “You see weird things happen. We just kept going and crashed the net hard. It's an unbelievable feeling. Anytime you can score a goal like that it puts a smile on your face.”
Kalamazoo scored two first-period goals but the Walleye answered with two in the third period before a crowd of 4,524 at the Huntington Center.
Rookie Luke Glendening got the Walleye on the board with 13:30 left in the game. Glendening scored his team-high 11th goal on an assist from Andrej Nestrasil.
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Nicastro, a rookie who was added to the roster on Wednesday after being assigned from Grand Rapids, scored just before the horn sounded. Nicastro's big, long blast from the middle was set up by Nestrasil.
“That's as close as it can get,” Nicastro said. “I'm not a huge goal scorer. So this one's definitely up there. It was awesome to contribute like that. It's a great feeling and you can't compare it to anything. I heard the horn after so I knew it was a goal. It's nice to get the win my first game down here. I just want to contribute as much as I can and scoring is one way to do it.”
Toledo (12-7-1) has won six of its last seven and three in a row.
The Walleye outshot the Wings 44-27 but Kalamazoo made its early opportunities count. Toledo finally got two shots past Kalamazoo goalie Joel Martin, who finished with 41 saves.
“A two-goal lead against us is not a safe lead because the confidence these guys have,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “We work hard and because of that you're going to create opportunities and then you need a little lady luck on your side.”
The Wings seized a 2-0 lead after the first period despite Toledo holding a 12-6 edge in shots. Nick Sirota scored 7:15 in and Kory Karlander scored a power play goal with 6:12 left in the first period.
Toledo goalie Jordan Pearce (6-1-0) won for the sixth straight time, finishing with 25 saves.
On the winner, Vitucci said he played a hunch and put Rogers on a line with Martin. The paired rushed up the ice and Rogers dished it to Martin, who made a one-touch, drop pass back to O'Neill. The former Kalamazoo captain drilled a shot over the Wing netminder.
“I just screamed to Joey and he made an unbelievable play,” O'Neill said. “I was lucky to get the shot and found the net. If you get it on net in overtime, good things will happen.”
Moments after Martin robbed Terry Broadhurst on a point blank shot, Vitucci pulled Pearce for the extra attacker with 1:10 left.
“Kyle Rogers and Joey Martin had way too much success in OT last year. So I told Marty to go with Rog and boom,” Vitucci said. “It was a great tic-tac-toe play and Wes O'Neill had a fabulous shot.”
The comeback was even more improbable considering the Walleye lost forward Byron Froese early to an arm injury. At one point Vitucci had just seven forwards and was playing defenseman Joey Ryan up front.
“The lines were juggled but we kept working,” he said. “We didn't let up. Everyone was out of position and we were still pressing.”
FISH TALES: Nicastro, who played three seasons at Boston University, had one goal in five games for the Griffins. … Toledo, which is in second in the North Division, is in the midst of nine straight games against division opponents and are 4-1-0 so far. Toledo is 7-5-0 against North foes.
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