After Nino Musitelli tied the game in the waning moments of regulation, the Toledo Walleye appeared to gain much-needed momentum. Maybe they would play for overtime, or even get a little luckier in regulation against a division rival.
But Brandon Marino swooped in and extinguished any of those ideas. Marino’s goal with 2:54 left in regulation lifted Fort Wayne to a 3-1 win over the Walleye on Saturday at the Huntington Center.
Seconds after Matt Syroczynski’s shot bounced off the goal cage, Marino dug the puck out of the corner and skated in to beat Walleye goalie Kent Simpson.
“We had some momentum and sometimes, the momentum doesn’t always go in your favor,” Musitelli said. “Sometimes you might get a little overexcited and whatnot, but that’s what makes hockey so much fun. You never know.”
Given that the Walleye are three-quarters of the way through the regular season, Musitelli didn’t see his team dwelling on Saturday’s loss.
“I don’t think too many guys are going to sit and take this loss too hard, even though it was a hard-fought battle,” Musitelli said. “I think we’re just going to stay positive going into [today] in playing a good team, and it’s going to be keeping it simple and playing the game we know how to play.”
Still, Toledo coach Nick Vitucci pinpointed several shortcomings in the loss to the Komets.
“Pucks were blowing up off our sticks for the majority of the game, and we had a group of guys who were supposed to be the lead horses that weren’t,” said Vitucci, whose team enters today’s game against Cincinnati in fourth place in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference and second in the North Division, four points behind Cincinnati. “But we still played hard and made a game of it. But, overall, it’s obviously disappointing losing to a team that’s behind you in the standings and, certainly, it’s a win that you’d love to have in the standings.”
In a scoreless first period in which each team had seven shots on goal, the most notable shot came with 1:05 left, when Stephon Thorne squared off against Fort Wayne’s Tyler Butler after a scrum broke out in front of Komets goalie Jeff Deslauriers (28 saves).
A night after Thorne sparked the Walleye by going against Wheeling’s Adam Ross, Thorne took down Butler but couldn’t ignite the Walleye going into the second. Instead, the Walleye’s lineup took a hit early in the period when Kyle Rogers got tangled with Fort Wayne’s Jamie Milam in the corner, and the Walleye forward limped off the ice and had to be helped to the dressing room.
Rogers, however, returned to the ice midway through the second — and promptly took a penalty for hooking at 10:11, which set up Syroczynski’s power-play goal with 8:08 left in the second.
Musitelli got the equalizer with less than six minutes left in the third and after Marino’s go-ahead goal, Jean-Michel Rizk added an empty-net goal with five seconds left.
FISH TALES: Kent Simpson made 26 saves after being returned to Toledo from Rockford of the AHL. Vitucci said the Walleye plan to carry three goaltenders, barring any injuries or re-assignments. ... Toledo’s power play went 0 for 3 Saturday and is 1 for 29 in its last 10 games.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.