For a second straight night, a Toledo Walleye game was delayed by a barrage of bears.
Toledo's Christian Hilbrich, left, chases the puck as Indy's Andrew Schmit defends Saturday at the Huntington Center. Toledo won the game, 3-2.
Blade/Kurt Steiss Enlarge
When forward Dylan Sadowy scored on the Walleye's first shot of the second period on Saturday night, the fans at the Huntington Center unleashed a flurry of stuffed animals. Toledo went on to top off the Indy Fuel 3-2 in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game.
The contest was held up for five minutes for a good cause when thousands of stuffed animals flew from the stands and covered the ice. Toledo's game at Fort Wayne on Friday night also was delayed after the Komets organization also held its annual toy collection celebration.
“It's nice to get that goal and you put your hands in the air and all these Teddy bears are coming down on you,” Sadowy said. “It's great to get a goal like that.”
A few members of the crowd of 7,536 at the downtown arena also stuck with the tradition of tossing a walleye on to the ice. Several hundred more bears rained down from the crowd after Walleye forward Patrick McCarron scored Toledo's second goal with 2:32 left in the second period.
Fans were encouraged to bring a stuffed animal to the game to donate to charity. A total of about 3,500 will be donated to five local organizations that help children in times of crisis: Lucas and Wood County Children’s Services, Toledo Police and Fire, the Salvation Army of NW Ohio, Family House, and Aurora House.
“It's such a great hockey tradition,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “It's unbelievable. Any opportunity we get to help the community and give back, we will do it for sure, especially for families and kids in need. It's amazing how much a stuffed animal can mean.”
Forward Tyler Barnes gave Toledo a 3-0 cushion when he chopped in the puck after an initial shot by Christian Hilbrich with 9:01 left in regulation.
The Walleye (14-4-3) improved to 7-0-0 at home to extend the best start to a season on home ice in team history.
“When you have the crowd behind you it's so nice,” Sadowy said. “They get into it here and the city loves their hockey here.”
Toledo, which leads the Central Division, has outscored its opponents 29-13 at home.
“We have to take care of home ice and the guys have taken that to heart,” Watson said. “A lot of guys want to come here because of the support and we don’t take that for granted.”
Toledo opened up a four-game homestand after playing four of its last five on the road.
Walleye goalie Pat Nagle (12-1-2) finished with 22 saves on 24 shots. He lost his shutout with just 3:57 left when Nolan Descoteaux scored for Indy (5-10-3).
“We had a strong game up until then and we had a missed coverage,” Watson said. “We have to be disinclined and detailed. We can learn from that.”
Ryan Rupert then scored with 1.4 seconds left after Marcoux was pulled for the extra attacker.
“We fell apart a little bit there and that's unacceptable,” Sadowy said. “You have to finish it off.”
Sadowy, who was assigned to Toledo from its American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids on Nov. 22, had a goal and an assist.
Toledo finished with a sizable 35-24 edge in shots. The Walleye went 0 of 3 on the power play.
Toledo's best chance of the scoreless opening period was thwarted by Indy forward Ryan Rupert. Zach Nastasiuk had a look at a wide open net on a rebound chance, but Rupert slid over and stopped the shot. Marcoux stopped the first shot by Luke Esposito.
The Walleye entered the game having lost three of their last five games, including a 3-2 loss in a shootout at Fort Wayne on Friday.
“Tonight we had good physical play and good puck management,” Watson said. “We want to be a team that is hard to play against and we did that.”
It was the third time the teams have met, but the first in Toledo. The Walleye had knocked off the Fuel 3-2 and 4-1 earlier this season. Toledo plays Indy nine times, more than any other team this season.
Next up for the Walleye is the second School Celebration Day morning contest. Toledo hosts Fort Wayne at 10:35 a.m. on Wednesday. The Walleye then play Tulsa and Wheeling next Friday and Saturday, respectively, at the Huntington Center.
FISH TALES: Walleye forward A.J. Jenks, the team's second-leading goal scorer, is expected to be out of the lineup for three months with a lower-body injury. Jenks, who has played in 14 games this season and has 10 points (8 G, 2 A), was on crutches after the game.
Jenks, who is in his fourth season with the Walleye, posted a career-high in points with 46 points (19 G, 27 A) in just 46 contests with Toledo last season. Jenks has collected 126 points (65 G, 61 A) over 157 contests.
Jenks, 27, ranks sixth in all-time Walleye games played while he is tied for third in goals and sits fifth all-time in career assists.
Jenks' injury comes on the heels of the loss of captain Alden Hirschfeld to a knee injury for the rest of the regular season.
“We're fighting injury and we are asking guys to step up,” Watson said. “We have guys that are playing bigger roles and we are asking more of them, which is good for their development. We’re a deep team and guys can step in and play.”
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