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A capacity crowd waited expectantly at the Huntington Center for the Walleye to fuel an already festive atmosphere in the home opener and Toledo did just that in the third period.
The 8,200 spectators at the downtown arena had to wait until the third period before either Toledo or Wheeling scored. Walleye rookie Kevin Lynch tallied the game's first goal 21 seconds into the final period as Toledo shutout Wheeling 2-0.
Lynch scored the game winner on the first shot of the third period. He scored from the left slot on assists from Russ Sinkewich and Travis Novak.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the home opener
“I didn't want to wait until the third period to get going but that's what happened tonight,” Lynch said. “I got off to a slow [start] in the first two periods today. I was just trying to get my legs under me. But Novak drove the puck to the net and dropped it off to me and I put it in.”
Walleye rookie goalie Mac Carruth posted the shutout with 30 saves.
“Obviously winning the home opener is big for us,” Carruth said. “The fans came out strong here. It was very impressive. I had a lot of help back there from my defense.”
Toledo forward Scott Arnold scored on a rebound after Lynch hit the post with his shot as the Walleye took a 2-0 lead with 11:24 left in regulation. Lynch looked skyward after his shot deflected away.
“I probably should not have been looking up,” Lynch said “But luckily Arnie was there to tap it in.”
The Walleye (2-0-1) have earned five out of a possible six points to start the season. Wheeling fell to 1-2-0.
There was no score at the game's midpoint. Toledo had just one shot in the second period at that point as Wheeling led 16-13 in shots. The Walleye had six shots overall in the second period.
“We told them to get greedier,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “We got ourselves in good scoring opportunities but we had just one shot through three quarters of a period and that is not good enough.”
Carruth had two of his best saves at that point. He stopped a wraparound attempt and stood strong during a scramble in front of his net.
“He was very big,” Vitucci said. “That is what you expect out of a goalie — make the routine saves and then make five or six big saves and he gives you a chance to win.”
Toledo had six shots in the second period but Emerson Clark had two point-blank shots late in the stanza. Nailer goalie Mike Condon, who finished with 27 saves, had to be very good in the third to prevent more than the two goals.
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Lynch also scored both of Toledo's goals in a 3-2 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday, including his first as a pro.
“We were trying to make too cute of plays [in the first two periods],” Lynch said.
Carruth made nine saves in the first period, 14 in the second, and seven in the third.
“We might have let up a bit in the second but came out hard in the third,” Carruth said.
Toledo outshot Wheeling 12-9 in a scoreless first period.
Walleye forward Trevor Parkes, the team's scoring leader coming into the game with one goal and two assists, had five shots on goal over the first 15 minutes and finished with six.
Late in the opening period, a fight broke out between Clark and Wheeling's Patrick McGrath. Clark landed several uppercuts and overhand shots.
Vitucci mixed up his lines in the second trying to find a spark and found it in the third.
“We had some jump there. I was proud how everyone stepped up,” he said. “Right now it looks like we have three good lines. That's the type of effort we're going to need going forward.”
Next up for the Walleye is the annual School Celebration Day. Faceoff for the game at the Huntington Center on Wednesday is at 10:35 a.m. Toledo has a home-and-home series with Kalamazoo next weekend. The Wings play at Toledo next Saturday.
FISH TALES: Toledo is now 2-3 in home openers. … It was the first of 10 meetings between the teams this season. The Walleye went 8-1-1 against the Nailers last season. … Toledo played two road games before the home opener for the first time in franchise history. … The team has 9 players that skated for the Walleye last season: Kyle Rogers, Phil Rauch, Phil Oreskovic, Trevor Parkes, Max Nicastro, Travis Novak, Stephon Thorne, Aaron Bogosian, and Tyler Pilmore. … Rogers, who has played in more games for the Walleye than any other player (216) has moved to sixth on the all-time Toledo franchise list, trailing Jason Gladney, who played in 241 games for the Storm (1994-97). … Oreskovic, John Vigilante, Aaron Bogosian, and Dan Weiss were scratches.