Toledo defenseman Ben Youds hopes his team can give Walleye fans some early Christmas presents this week.
The team is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but Toledo has a golden opportunity to turn things around quickly with three home games this week.
The Walleye have three more home games before the holiday, and the first is today when the Wheeling Nailers (6-8-5) come to the Huntington Center for a 7 p.m. faceoff.
“We hope we can give our fans a few more wins before Christmas,” said Youds, who is in his second year as a pro and first with the Walleye. “You don't get to play on home ice every game so we have to take advantage of this. The next three games are very important to us.”
The Walleye host Evansville (10-14-2) on Saturday night, then defending Kelly Cup champion Florida (10-8-5) at the downtown arena on Sunday.
But the friendly confines have not equated to overwhelming success this season. The team is 6-5-0 at home.
“Our home record isn't that great, so we have to take care of business at home before Christmas,” Youds said. “We hope to have our fans leave on a high note.”
The 24-year-old blue-liner from Minnesota has been taking care of business offensively.
Youds is averaging nearly a point a game with 18 points in 21 games. The defenseman is ranked fourth on the team. He leads the team with 15 assists to go along with three goals.
Youds, who played at Minnesota State before being signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011, is fourth among all ECHL defensemen in points and is second in assists.
“My role here is being offensive, joining the rush, and using my speed,” Youds said. “On this team you can count on everyone doing their own job. If you take care of your individual play, everything will fall into place. So far it's been great.”
The Walleye had won four in a row before dropping three straight games. They now have a 13-10-1 record. Toledo still sits in second place in the ECHL North Division, three points behind Cincinnati.
“It's a long season. No one is hitting the panic button,” Youds said. “You have hot streaks, and then you have some bumps in the road along the way.”
And Toledo has been streaky this season. The team has winning strings of three and four games, but the Walleye have also had losing streaks of three and four games.
Youds attributed the recent downturn to lengthy road trips to Evansville, which is about a nine-hour bus drive, and Kalamazoo. All three losses have come on the road.
“The travel can wear on you. So it will be nice to have the next three at home and the guys are looking forward to it,” Youds said. “Instead of sleeping in the bus and getting to a hotel at four in the morning, you can sleep in your own bed. It's a bit easier and more comfortable.”
Youds said a Christmas video featuring the players and produced by the organization has helped he and his teammates get into the holiday spirit. Youds said it took two days of shooting to produce the comical video, which also features coach Nick Vitucci and assistant Dan Watson.
“It was a lot of fun and we had a blast with it,” Youds said. “Everyone had their little parts. We all saw it and had a few laughs. It looks awesome.”
Youds played in 57 games with Toledo's American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford last season and had four goals and 13 assists. He started this season in Rockford but was assigned to Toledo on Oct. 23.
Youds appeared in just one game with Toledo last season and managed to score the game winner on Dec. 27.
“It was a short stay last year. Only two days with a practice and a game,” Youds said. “You just try to make the most of every opportunity. And that's what I'm doing here now.”
FISH TALES: Santa Claus will make appearances today and at Sunday's games. … Youds has seven assists on the power play. … Toledo is 3-0-1 against the Nailers so far this season. … Toledo has yet to beat Evansville in three meetings this year. … Toledo has sent 226 shots on goal over the last six games (37.6 per contest). … F Joey Martin was the team's player of the week with two goals and an assist. … F Willie Coetzee (10 goals, 11 assists) leads the team in scoring followed by F Andrej Nestrasil (7-13). … G Jordan Pearce (6-3-0) has a 2.71 goals-against average, while G Kent Simpson (5-6-1) has a 2.91 GAA.
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