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Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce and forward Adam Hobson woke up in different cities on Sunday morning but each later played key roles in Toledo's victory at the Huntington Center.
Hobson scored the game's crucial first goal and Pearce made 30 saves in the Walleye's 4-1 victory over Evansville before a crowd of 5,157.
Hobson returned to Toledo from a tryout with Rockford of the American Hockey League. Hobson, who had played in 16 games for the Walleye before his call up, opened up the scoring at the 9:23 mark of the first period. The goal stood as the lone marker for the majority of the contest before three goals were scored in a wild final minute.
Hobson said he had a 4 a.m. wake-up call for an 8 a.m. flight from Chicago to Toledo.
“I got back just in time to get ready for the game,” Hobson said. “We have a solid group in there. I came back and it's like I never left. It's like I'm right at home here. I give credit to the coaches and leaders in there with all the players coming and going.”
Pearce, who returned to the team after a promotion to Grand Rapids of the AHL, had seven saves in the first, 11 in the second, and 13 in the third.
His bid for a third shutout this season was ruined with 40 seconds left. Pearce drove with his wife Melissa about three hours from western Michigan for the 5 p.m. game.
“I wanted to come back and get a win for the boys,” Pearce said. “I came right to the rink. I have to give a shout out to my wife, she was able to unpack everything. So I was able to get here right before game time.”
Pearce had solid positioning on two shots early in the third and added a glove save. He made three saves on a late Evansville man advantage and stopped all four IceMen power plays.
“This is my fourth year as a pro and you get used to things like getting called up in the middle of the night,” Pearce said. “You just have to be prepared to play your best no matter what happens.”
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The Walleye clung to the one-goal lead until they received a late insurance goal and an empty net goal from leading scorer Willie Coetzee to win their second straight game.
Stephon Thorne also scored with 15.8 seconds left in the game. Evansville's Kevin Baker ruined Pearce's shutout bid with 40 seconds left in the game.
“If it weren't for Jordan Pearce it might have been a different ball game,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “He was fantastic for us.”
The additions of Hobson and Pearce came on the heels of the return of Joey Martin, Andrej Nestrasil, and the addition of Trevor Parkes to the roster on Friday.
“Anytime you add players like that, obviously it strengthens your line up,” Vitucci said. “The challenge is figuring out line combinations to try to bring out the best in them. It worked out well.”
Defenseman Joey Ryan set up Hobson's goal, taking the puck to the net. Hobson hustled to the loose puck and knocked it by Evansville goalie Paul Karpowich (28 saves).
“Ryan took a shot and it bounced to me,” Hobson said. “I took a baseball swing and I got lucky it went in. To get that early goal made us play with more confidence.”
Coetzee added the insurance goal with 4:39 left in the game with a snap shot from the slot. He tacked on the empty netter, his 18th of the season, with exactly one minute left. Coetzee leads the league with 181 shots on goal and had a team-high seven on Sunday.
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“Willie gets a lot of shots on goal and sometimes he gets frustrated if they all don't go in,” Vitucci said. “But he had so many great looks. He has a remarkable shot.”
Forward Nino Musitelli also assisted on Hobson's fifth goal of the season and finished with two helpers.
Pearce, who did not play in Grand Rapids and had not seen game action since Jan. 19, said practicing in the AHL helped.
“The defense played great in front of me and let me see the puck and make the saves,” Pearce said.
The Walleye (23-17-4) have now won four of their last five games and took over sole possession of second place in the ECHL North Division.
“Body-wise we have a good count right now and good quality as well,” Vitucci said. “We'll cross our fingers that they stay here now. It's minute by minute around here. We aren't sure.”
Toledo next plays at division leader Cincinnati on Thursday before hosting Elmira on Friday and Reading on Saturday.
FISH TALES: D Cody Lampl had an assist and was plus-4. … The Walleye went 0 of 4 on the power play. They have scored on just two of their last 39 power play chances, dating back to Dec. 29.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.