The Toledo Walleye broke out the ugly sweaters Saturday.
They also brought in reinforcements for the offense.
There was no help for a struggling defense as Cincinnati thrashed the Walleye 7-3 in front of 8,200 at the Huntington Center.
“There were a lot of breakdowns back there,” said Walleye coach Nick Vitucci. “I think we are slow, we are passive, and we allow teams a lot of time and space to really do what they want.
“And because we’re slow in coverage and slow to pucks, we end up chasing. Teams that come in that are fast spin us around until we are screwing ourselves into the ice.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game.
Cincinnati scored three goals in each of the first two periods on the way to snapping the Walleye’s two-game home win streak. Toledo now has lost three in a row, and captain Kyle Rogers said some of the problems stem from a lack of consistent emotion.
“When you get down a couple of goals, you need to feed off emotions,” he said. “We didn’t play with emotion out there.
“When you get down a goal or two, you need to get angry — and take that out on the ice. We did that in spurts, but for most of the game we didn’t show much emotion.”
The Cyclones opened with a quick power-play goal six minutes into the contest.
Ten seconds after Alden Hirschfeld was sent to the penalty box for a hooking penalty, Cincinnati’s Jack Combs threaded a pass through the crease to Logan Shaw, who was unmarked next to the right post, and Shaw batted the puck past Walleye goalie Hannu Toivonen.
That was the pattern for a number of Cyclone goals: Either a Toledo breakdown or a crisp passing play created an easy scoring chance that Cincinnati buried.
“We were 3-3 in our last six games [before Saturday], and even those three wins we picked up were a waterfall in the desert — it was a mirage,” Vitucci said. “Hannu Toivonen has won us games single-handedly because those breakdowns continue through wins.
“You can’t ask a goalie to keep bailing you out by stopping high-quality shots over and over again.”
Toivonen finished with 30 saves, but Cincinnati poured in three more goals in the second period to lead 6-1.
“I thought Hannu was above-average [Saturday], and still he allowed seven goals,” Vitucci said. “That shows you how bad we were in front of him.”
Meanwhile the Toledo offense took time to get rolling despite adding forwards Pat Mullane and Max Shalunov from Rockford of the American Hockey League, while Trevor Parkes and Louis Aubry were added from from Grand Rapids.
“We were hoping the four new forwards would give us some puck possession time with their size and strength, and that would alleviate some the problems on the defensive end,” Vitucci said.
“Unfortunately it’s not ‘add water and get instant success.’ ”
Hirschfeld got Toledo on the board at 5:52 of the second period, and the Walleye got goals from David Gilbert and Shalunov in the final period.
The 34 shots didn’t create enough opportunities to keep up with the Cyclones.
“We had a lot of shots, but they weren’t the Grade-A chances Cincinnati had,” Rogers said.
Jack Combs led the Cyclones with two goals and an assist, while four other players had a goal and an assist for Cincinnati. Hirschfeld and Gilbert each had a goal and an assist for Toledo.
Vitucci said he has tried just about everything to solve the problems on defense, but there is one fix remaining.
“We have to look at personnel back there,” he said. “It’s not just the D-men, it’s our whole defensive coverage, which involves three forwards as well.”
The Walleye coach admitted that he is frustrated with his team’s 19 points, tied for the fewest in the ECHL.
“Our fans are so great, so supportive, they deserve way better than this,” Vitucci said. “This has been going on for a while, and we’ve tried different approaches – and none of them are working.
“It has been very frustrating.”
NOTE: Before the game the Walleye released forward Tyler Pilmore, who did not have any points in six games.