The Walleye's trip to Florida last weekend included a day at the beach as the Toledo teammates continue to develop cohesion in the early stages of the season.
The team flew south for five days for a three-game stretch against two of the top teams in the ECHL South Division. Forward Scott Arnold said the short excursion allowed the players to connect.
“We really did some bonding as a team,” Arnold said. “We had practice [Saturday] morning and then the majority of the team headed to the beach. We stayed there until sunset. It was good to get to know each others' personalities.
"At the rink you're so focused on hockey but outside the rink you get to know what type of guys they are.”
It wasn't all fun and games for Toledo, which went 1-2-0 on the trek. Captain Kyle Rogers called a team meeting after the Walleye lost 6-3 to Orlando on Sunday afternoon.
“Everybody was pretty upset with the effort we put forward,” Arnold said. “We had a meeting later that night at the hotel. We talked it out. It was definitely a positive thing. Everyone had a chance to chime in.”
Arnold said every player stood up in the meeting and talked about what they wanted to get out of the season.
“We have such a great team. Everyone respects each other,” he said. “It was a good meeting. Everyone was more upbeat. The next game our effort level was better.”
Toledo (4-5-1) was tied at two with Orlando entering the third period in a rematch on Monday. But the Solar Bears scored two unanswered goals to knock off the Walleye 4-2.
“It was a game we should have won. We took a step forward even though we lost,” Arnold said.
Toledo will play a fifth straight road game on Friday at Fort Wayne. The Walleye have played seven of their first 10 games on the road (2-4-1). They return home on Sunday to take on defending ECHL champion Reading on Veterans Appreciation Night.
Arnold, a second-year pro, has had success both at the Huntington Center and on the road. The 24-year-old ranks third on the team in scoring with seven points. He is tied with Trevor Parkes for the team lead in goals scored with five.
In Toledo's season opener at Fort Wayne, Arnold scored a goal in regulation and had the game winner in the 4-3 shootout victory over the Komets.
“That felt great,” Arnold said. “That helped my confidence level.”
Arnold quickly attributed all of his success to his linemates Kevin Lynch and Travis Novak.
“They are extremely talented guys,” Arnold said. “Playing with them is pretty easy. We have good chemistry going.”
Novak, who is in his second season with Toledo, leads the team in scoring with 10 points (three goals and seven assists). Lynch, a rookie, is tied for fifth with three goals and two assists.
“Lynch and I have been together since training camp,” Arnold said “[Coach Nick Vitucci] put Novak on our line in the home opener and we scored a goal and we clicked from there. Novak is one of the fastest guys in the league. He can wheel with it. Lynch is an extremely talented player. It's a real good mix.
"We're also close friends off the ice.”
Arnold, who signed with Toledo on the first day of training camp, split his first professional season between Gwinnett in the ECHL and Portland of the American Hockey League.
He had 20 points with eight goals and 12 assists in 32 ECHL games last season.
The 6-foot-2 and 185-pound forward leads the Walleye with three power play goals and is tied for second among all ECHL players in that category.
Arnold, who grew up in a suburb of hockey-crazy Montreal, said he considers himself to be a power forward who goes to the net and gets rebounds.
“I describe myself as a hard-nosed player,” Arnold said. “I don't shy away from the physical game. I like to lay the body and make room for my linemates. I'm not afraid to go into the dirty areas and drive the net. And hope for some rebounds.”
That tough mentality served Arnold well when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in August of 2011.
He had completed his freshman year at Niagara University and had attended NHL development camps with the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames.
“I just came back from NHL rookie camps and I had some bumps and bruises on my body from the grind. But I noticed something wasn't right,” he said. “I went to the doctor and he told me I had a cancerous tumor.”
Arnold said he had surgery and spent the next four days in the hospital.
“I dealt with great doctors. Luckily it had not spread anywhere else, which was huge because I was able to avoid chemotherapy,” he said.
“I've seen people go through that and it's really scary. I feel blessed.”
Arnold recovered in time to play for Niagara in its season opener.
He said he has been cancer free ever since. He goes for blood tests every three months and once a year he has a full check up with MRI and CAT scans.
“It's been two years where I have been clean,” he said. “It really made me appreciate the little things more. I appreciate the fact that I get to play hockey for a living. I appreciate my family and realized how important they are. I don't take anything for granted.”