The red and white jerseys were crisp, with the logo that was once labeled by a major publication as “the worst in pro hockey.”
Bobb Vergiels, the voice of hockey at the Toledo Sports Arena, returned to his familiar perch behind the microphone.
Even Dukes, the furry, floppy-eared canine mascot of the Toledo Storm made an appearance.
Yet when the Toledo Walleye honored the previous ECHL iteration of its franchise Friday night at the Huntington Center, the Walleye couldn’t mimic the success of the Storm on the ice.
With a 7-3 loss to Orlando, the Walleye dropped their seventh game in a row, and the loss to the Solar Bears didn’t help the frustrations that have been mounting for the Walleye.
“There’s certainly not one problem you can point the finger at, or any individual or anything,” Walleye defenseman Russ Sinkewich said. “We all know where we are as a team, and I think we need to bring a good effort for 60 minutes. That’s the biggest thing. Starting that and minimizing the errors we make.”
The Walleye gave up three goals in the first period, and while they appeared to have some life at the start of the second period when Travis Novak and Alden Hirschfeld scored two quick goals, they could not build off that momentum.
Additionally, the teams took a combined 21 penalties, including 11 against the Walleye. That number was indicative of the Walleye’s frustration level.
“As a group, we don’t like where we’re at,” Sinkewich said. “We’re trying to prove to our fans and to each other that we’re not going to stand for this, and we’re trying to bring some emotion back to the game.
“There’s times when it did feel lifeless, there were some weak calls, and sometimes those penalties are inevitable. But that’s the game.”
Scott Tanski and Blake Kessel scored a pair of goals nine seconds apart late in the first to help the Solar Bears take a 3-0 lead, and it forced the Walleye to do some navel-gazing during the first intermission.
“We discussed it in the locker room that, as a team, you have to play for more than just what the final score is,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “You play for yourself, for your teammates, and to impress for the next 21 or 22 games, and for your career.
“Regardless of the score, the passion level’s got to improve, and the compete level’s got to improve.”
After Novak and Hirschfeld scored, the momentum stopped. The Solar Bears stretched their lead to 5-2 on Jacob Cepis’ tally and Murovich’s second goal and took advantage of the Walleye’s spotty play. Mickey Lang and Cody Wild scored in the third for Orlando, and Aaron Clarke also scored for the Walleye.
“They capitalized on a lot of our errors,” Sinkewich said. “We made a lot of turnovers, and they’re a great transition team with a lot of skill. You give a team a lot of opportunity to build up steam through the neutral zone, and you turn the puck over and give them odd-man rushes, it’s going to come back to bite you.”
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