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When the Walleye finally broke through and scored with 20 seconds left in Sunday's game it was a clutch yet equally controversial goal.
Cincinnati held Toledo scoreless until the waning moments when captain Kyle Rogers tied the game at 1 on a rebound goal with 20.9 seconds left in regulation.
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But the Cyclones, who angrily claimed the goal should not have counted because the puck was kicked in, earned two points anyway with a 2-1 overtime win. Cincinnati ended it 1:30 into OT to the disappointment of 6,522 spectators at the Huntington Center.
Rogers scored on a Walleye power play that had struggled mightily. His late goal, which was disputed by Cyclones coach Jarrod Skalde, allowed the Walleye to earn at least a point.
It appeared that Rogers had made a kicking motion toward the puck that knocked it in to tie it.
“It happened so fast,” Rogers said. “I just turned my foot. I tried to stop it. I didn't kick it. The ref called it a goal. And I wasn't going to complain.”
The referee reviewed the goal and allowed it to stand. But Skalde was fuming on the bench.
“I thought it was clearly kicked in,” Skalde said. “I think even the motion to stop it, counts as a kicking motion. Rogers has a knack for that and he's killed us over the years. It is what it is. That's what happens when Cincinnati and Toledo play. We were frustrated and [upset] about it and we were fortunate [in overtime].”
The Cyclones (34-17-6), who lead the North division, gained one point on the second-place Walleye (30-19-7).
A turnover in the Walleye zone resulted in Charles-Olivier Roussel's game winning goal.
“We gave them another look and it ended up in the net,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “Right now we're trying to be too cute.”
Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce (14-7-3) finished with 25 saves to keep his team in the game. Cyclones goalie Michael Houser finished with 31 saves.
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The Walleye outshot Cincinnati 32-27. Toledo went 1 of 4 on the power play.
Wes O'Neill and Willie Coetzee assisted on Rogers' tying marker, which came with Pearce pulled for an extra attacker.
“It looked like Rog kicked it up to his stick and banged it in,” Vitucci said. “So it was a good goal. No question about that.”
It also ended an 0-for-26 streak on the power play for the Walleye.
“It was a big step for us because we've been struggling with our power play,” Rogers said. “Maybe that will change some things around for us. They were pretty fired up after that goal. We knew they would come out flying in overtime. I don't know if we didn't match their intensity. It's a roller coaster. But it's part of the game.”
The Walleye had not scored with the man advantage since Feb. 1. At times, Vitucci had five forwards out on the power play.
“We are tinkering with it,” Vitucci said. “We got the tying goal with a power play goal, so we'll take it right now. At least we had some success on it. We're looking for the right combination.”
The Cyclones, who have won eight of nine, scored at the 15:05 mark of the opening period. Toledo is now 4-2-1 against the division leaders. Both teams were playing a third game in three days.
“It was two teams that both played three games in three nights and it was sloppy,” Vitucci said.
Toledo went 1-1-1 in three home games this weekend.
“It wasn't a bust,” Rogers said. “We took three of six points. We could have done better. We're coming down to the wire. Teams are chasing us and everybody's real close.”
With 16 games left in the regular season, Toledo will play four games in five days coming up this week. The Walleye are on the road on Wednesday and Thursday before returning for home games on Saturday and Sunday.
“This wasn't up to par,” Vitucci said. “It was an average weekend. But we may look at this Monday morning [and realize] it was a really big point.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.