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In the moments before his throwback Toledo Blades jersey was about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, Willie Coetzee lamented his current team’s struggles after a 4-3 overtime loss to Kalamazoo.
The Toledo Walleye’s power play continued to toil, and the Walleye’s usually tidy penalty kill made two game-changing gaffes Saturday against the Wings.
In the end, the Walleye got caught flat-footed in the opening seconds of overtime when Kalamazoo forward Wesley Myron threaded a pass to Yann Sauve, who needed a split second to pick his spot against Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce and score the game-winning goal.
“Just coverage,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said of Sauve’s goal, which came 20 seconds into overtime. “It was coverage, and it was just missed.”
“There was some miscommunication on the overtime play there,” Coetzee said. “If two forwards just would have talked and made a simple play and let the d-man come in on the rush … but I think we just have to work on things in practice.
"A lot of communication.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Wings beat Walleye in overtime
The Walleye entered Saturday’s game at the Huntington Center fifth in the ECHL on the penalty kill (84.5 percent), but up 3-1 in the third period after Coetzee’s second goal, Kalamazoo scored two power-play goals less than two minutes — Myron’s goal at 7:32 and Sam Ftorek’s tally at 9:13.
“The penalty kill’s been great, fantastic for us,” said Vitucci, whose team is 2-3 in its last five games. “It was a bit of a hiccup. We had a too many men on the ice penalty [that set up Ftorek’s goal] and those ones come back and bite you.”
Coetzee, reassigned to Toledo earlier in the day by the Detroit Red Wings, gave the Walleye a 1-0 lead 2:03 into the game when he played a puck that caromed off the half-wall and his slap shot from the right circle beat Kalamazoo goalie Joel Martin (43 saves).
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Referees waved off Nino Musitelli’s apparent goal with 6:11 left in the second, ruling that Toledo left wing Stephon Thorne interfered with Martin, and Nick Sirota’s shorthanded goal tied the game at 1 at 17:10.
Travis Novak gave Toledo a 2-1 lead with 0.7 seconds left in the period when he scooted his own rebound past Martin.
Coetzee gave the Walleye a 3-1 lead 26 seconds into the third, but the Walleye were unable to capitalize on a hooking penalty against Sirota with 8:14 left in the third, and Myron and Ftorek’s goals eventually forced overtime.
“We make too many passes and we should be shooting on the play,” Coetzee said of his team’s power play, which finished 0 for 4. “Shoot first and then pass after and open up the plays.
"I don’t know. You can’t think too much about everything. We just have to play hockey, work hard and battle for pucks.”
FISH TALES: The Walleye will host its alumni game at 2 p.m. today, prior to a 5:05 p.m. faceoff against Fort Wayne. The alumni game is part of Toledo Hockey Heritage Weekend. … The Walleye wore Toledo Blades jerseys, commemorating the Toledo Blades of the International Hockey League, who played from 1963 to 1970 at the Toledo Sports Arena. …Saturday’s game had an announced sellout of 8,200 at the Huntington Center.