Toledo's David Gilbert (10) advances the puck toward the goal under pressure from the Reading defense during the first period.
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Near the end of the second period at the Huntington Center on Saturday night, a capacity crowd started the wave in an attempt to spark some energy in the downtown arena.
Unfortunately for the Toledo Walleye, it was the road team that responded with two goals in a span of 1:32.
The Walleye were badly outshot, 39-17, by Reading, the defending ECHL champions. The Royals knocked off Toledo 4-1 before a standing-room-only crowd of 8,200.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game.
The Walleye (12-22-3) lost their fourth in a row and fell a full 20 points behind Reading (23-13-1) in the Eastern Conference.
“It's Groundhog Day. I'm not sure what to say anymore,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “The third period the ice started to tilt our way. But, obviously, it's too little too late.”
After getting outshot 14-4 in the first and 17-5 in the second, Toledo got on the board 4:13 into the third. Aaron Bogosian slapped the puck out of midair to make it 3-1. C.J. Chartrain and Kevin Lynch got the assists on Bogosian's second goal of the season.
Vitucci pulled goalie Mac Carruth with 2:35 left for a 6-on-4 advantage as the Walleye got a late power play. Toledo then had a 6-on-3 advantage as Reading was called for another penalty.
But the Royals' Ryan Cruthers scored an empty net goal with 27 seconds left.
Toledo's Richard Nedomlel (24) knocks the puck away from goalie Mac Carruth during a Reading power play. Carruth was under siege all night as the visitors outshot the Walleye 39-17.
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“There is nothing to lose,” Vitucci said. “I was looking to create momentum.”
Toledo was playing without four of its top six scorers, including their three leading scorers due to call-ups to the American Hockey League.
“You recruit players to Toledo … so hopefully they get called up,” Vitucci said. “There is no better feeling regardless of our situation when you can tell a guy [he's been called up]. That makes it rewarding during the frustrating times when you lose four guys overnight. You've helped guys get one step closer to their dream.”
Captain Kyle Rogers said the team once again started slowly. The team could not sustain pressure and is now 8-9-0 at home.
“Tonight we were sporadic,” Rogers said. “We'd have one good shift. But we didn't have enough of them. Part of the issue all year is that we come out sluggish and then we have to try to battle back. And if you do that every game you will come up short.”
Reading took a 1-0 lead on Josh Brittain’s rebound goal with 5:06 left in first period.
As the capacity crowd got the wave going, the Royals tallied two goals in quick succession to seize a three-goal cushion.
Reading made it 2-0 as Julien Cayer scored with 2:38 left in the second period. The Royals scored again just 1:32 later as T.J. Shyner tipped a shot past Carruth.
Carruth (4-9-0), who made his fourth straight start, finished with 35 saves but lost his seventh straight.
Bogosian had played two games at the start of the year before injuring his wrist. This was the fourth game back for the veteran. He now has two goals and two assists in six games.
“We would have loved to have him all year,” Vitucci said. “It's the energy he plays with, and he is a leader in the locker room.”
Reading goalie Brandon Anderson (11-6-1) finished with 16 saves.
The Walleye wrap up a three-game weekend homestand today against Greenville.
“Our goal is to start the game off with a bang,” Rogers said.
FISH TALES: Former Ohio State football players quarterback Kenny Guiton, wide receiver Chris Fields, running back Jordan Hall, and wide receiver Corey Brown signed autographs at the game. … It was the fifth capacity crowd of the season. ... Toledo had just two shots on goal with four minutes left in the first period and finished with four in the period. The fewest shots Toledo has had in a period was two on Nov. 3. … Each team went 0 of 6 on the power play. The Walleye killed off a two-man Reading advantage in the second period and allowed only one shot. … Carruth came up with a big stop on a solo breakaway shot from Ethan Cox with 5:12 left in the second to keep it a one-goal game. … The Walleye were outshot 31-9 after two periods. … Toledo finished the season series 1-3-0 against Reading.