Pearce sparks Walleye during tumultuous time

Goalieā€™s play off bench extended playoff run

Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce started the final three games of the ECHL first-round series against Cincinnati and helped the Walleye climb back into contention with two victories.
Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce started the final three games of the ECHL first-round series against Cincinnati and helped the Walleye climb back into contention with two victories.

Veteran Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce took over in net with his team facing elimination at the same time he faces a crossroads in his career.

Pearce, a four-year pro, started his career in Toledo in 2009-10. He has split time between the ECHL and Grand Rapids of American Hockey League since then.

Pearce, who is at the tail end of a two-year minor league contract with the Detroit Red Wings, has stepped up his play in the postseason.

A Notre Dame graduate, Pearce majored in pre-med and anthropology and plans to become a physician after he hangs up his skates.

The native of Anchorage, Alaska, has not reached the highest level. He had his best year in 2010-11 with Grand Rapids when he went 20-15-5 and had a 2.89 goals-against average.

He got off to a hot start this season with the Walleye before struggling at times later in the season. He had a 15-11-3 record with a 2.76 GAA.

Rookie goalie Kent Simpson got hot down the stretch, and Pearce had not started since March 29 when he was pulled from that game after one period. Pearce gave up four goals on 12 shots at Wheeling and was replaced by Simpson.

Simpson started six straight games in early to mid-March. Pearce left the team briefly to attend his brother’s wedding during the span.

Simpson then started the first three games of the playoffs, but lost all three (3.42 GAA).

“It’s nothing Simmer did or didn’t do,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “We knew we would get a quality start out of Jordan. He won Game 5 for us.”

Pearce was solid in a 3-2 win in double overtime in Game 4 and was phenomenal in a 3-1 victory in Game 5. Entering Tuesday’s game, Pearce was third in the ECHL with a 1.18 goals-against average.

“I’m not sure what Jordan is going to do,” Vitucci said. “He has a great education to fall back on. We have a lot of guys in our locker room that we don’t know whether they will retire or not.”

Pearce has said after his pro career is over, he plans to go back to medical school and perhaps become an orthopedic surgeon.

“I'd take him back with open arms if he’s a free agent goalie,” Vitucci said.

FAST START: For the third straight game in the series, Toledo held the lead after the first period.

The Walleye went on to win Games 4 and 5 to stay alive.

Toledo trailed Cincinnati after the opening period in each of the first three games. The Cyclones went on to win all three.

Toledo was 18-5-4 when leading after the first period during the regular season.

POWER PLAY HEATS UP: With the three power-play goals Toledo scored in Saturday’s game, the Walleye have scored on 26.3 percent of their chances with the man advantage in the postseason.

Toledo had scored just two power-play goals during the first four games in the series. The team’s power play came into Game 6 ranked third in the ECHL after going 3 of 5 in Game 5.

ATTENDANCE: The game attracted the largest crowd of the series as 4,333 fans attended Game 6 at Huntington Center.

The first game in Toledo had 4,191, and the second game had 4,042 spectators.

The attendance for games held in Cincinnati were 1,663, 2,538, and 1,803.

Toledo had the third-highest attendance in the ECHL during the playoffs entering Tuesday’s game. The Walleye had the fourth-best attendance during the regular season with an average crowd of 6,298.