TOLEDO, OH – After some well deserved time off to recover from eight games in thirteen games, Toledo got back into the fold against Central Division rival Fort Wayne. In their two prior trips to Memorial Coliseum this season the Walleye failed to emerge victoriously, so Toledo looked to put a stop to that losing streak. The Komets entered the game looking to get back into the win column, after dropping their last game against Cincinnati 4-1. Also, Fort Wayne was hosting their teddy bear toss, a day before Toledo’s toss night. Your starting goaltenders were Michael Houser for Fort Wayne and Matěj Machovský for Toledo. Scratches for Toledo were: Simon Denis, Davis Vandane, Kevin Gibson, A.J. Jenks, Shane Berschbach, Dylan Sadowy, and Alden Hirschfeld.
Last time Toledo skated in Fort Wayne the first period was not kind to them, so the Walleye looked to get off to a better start for this game. The first four minutes of the game did not produce a shot on goal, but both teams had their chances. Within the opening 30 seconds, Toledo had a two-on-one with Nastasiuk carrying the puck but missed his shot high and wide to the right of the net. The first official shot on goal came compliments Ryan Obuchowski after 4:33 of action. Two minutes later the first penalty of the game was called against Fort Wayne when Zac Larraza was sent to the box for hooking. Although a man down, at first it looked like the Komets were on the power play. After handling a Luke Esposito shot, Shawn Szydlowski got a breakaway shorthanded when he poked the puck free of Toledo. Machovský wasn’t letting anything by him during the first and was able to turn away the shot to keep it scoreless. Toledo had a couple of chances during the power play but couldn’t get a shot on goal, unlike Fort Wayne. From the 7:33 to the 10:42 mark the Komets dominated the shot counter, with eight shots over that time span. Toledo survived the onslaught and found paydirt shortly after. Following a shot by Tyler Barnes, the Walleye set up another play that ended with Connor Crisp feeding Kyle Bonis who scored the games first goal. Bonis has now scored a goal in three straight games, including a game-winning goal in the prior game against Brampton. After falling behind Fort Wayne had a few successful zone entries which produced a few shots, but couldn’t fool Machovský. With less than a minute remaining in the period Toledo finally got the puck out of their zone to go back to work on Houser. The Walleye produced three shots in the last 60 seconds of first-period hockey, and that third shot from Erik Bradford got Toledo a 2-0 lead with 14 seconds left in the period. Bradford received a beautiful pass from Barnes that got through the slot to the far side of the net where Bradford was waiting.
Fort Wayne got off to a flying start to the second period, with a shot at the 15 second mark and three additional shots within the next three minutes. Toledo again weathered the storm with more stellar goaltending from Machovský, with their first shot of the period coming at 3:49 thanks to Mike Borkowski. A bit of back of forth hockey took over after, with each team alternating chances until Fort Wayne established offensive zone presence at 9:16. Over the next 1:20 of play Fort Wayne got four shots to Machovský, all of which he stopped successfully. Toledo was called for their first penalty of the game at 17:50 when Obuchowski was called for holding. Toledo’s league-leading penalty kill unit took care of business though, and the Walleye entered the locker room up 2-0 after two periods of play.
Unfortunately for Toledo, the third period did not go in their favor. Fort Wayne came out of the gates swinging and controlled the pace of play. The Walleye didn’t get a shot on goal until over 13 minutes of hockey had been played. Fort Wayne, on the other hand, had ten shots on goal during that time. The Komets’ second shot of the period at 3:45 gave them their first goal of the game, thanks to Shawn Szydlowski. After the goal, the fans showered the ice with teddy bears, which caused a lengthy delay as the team collected the bears. Once the game resumed, Fort Wayne was energized and continued to press Toledo. Less than a minute after the Komets’ goal, Parker Reno and Mason Baptista got tangled up behind the net. It appeared as though Baptista was holding Reno’s stick to tie him up, which ended in Reno putting a shoulder into the Komet to send him down onto the ice. Szydlowski took exception and went after Reno. The men dropped the gloves, but Szydlowski gained the advantage and took Reno down to the ice. The offsetting fighting majors were the last penalties of the game. The fight served as yet another catalyst for Fort Wayne though, as now the crowd was back into the game both from the tossed bears and the fight. Shortly after the bout, 48 seconds precisely, Fort Wayne capitalized on the momentum shift and tied up the game. Ryan Culkin, who had been taking shots throughout the game, finally beat Machovský over the shoulder on his glove side at 5:09. Fort Wayne controlled the rest of the period, but neither team could get a third goal, so it went to overtime. At the end of regulation shots on goal were 36-18 in favor of Fort Wayne.
Overtime started out strong for Toledo, as they gained control of the puck and held it for the first two minutes of extra time. Zach Nastasiuk, Esposito, and Vili Saarijarvi were the first unit out and played well together, Saarijarvi had a shot on goal before heading off for a change. Austen Brassard also had a shot on goal for Toledo in overtime, while Zac Larraza had a shot for Fort Wayne. Overtime expired, so we went to a shootout. Your three shooters for Toledo were Tyler Barnes, Mike Borkowski, and Kyle Bonis (in that order). The Komets sent out Shawn Szydlowski first, followed by Louick Marcotte. Barnes failed on the opening shot, but Szydlowski scored on Machovský to take a 1-0 lead in the shootout. That was all Houser needed, as he stonewalled Borkowski and Bonis to get Fort Wayne the shootout victory 1-0 and 3-2 overall.
Including overtime shots on goal finished at 37-20 in favor of Fort Wayne. Despite the disappointing ending to the game, Toledo still comes away with a point. Even so, no one on that bus is going to be content after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period. Your three stars of the game are: The third star goes to Matěj Machovský for making 35 saves on 37 shots (SV% of .946) The game’s second star was earned by Shawn Szydlowski for his regulation goal and game-winning shootout goal. Finally, the first star was awarded to Ryan Culkin for his game-tying goal and an assist on the Szydlowski goal.
Toledo looks to rebound on Saturday during their own teddy bear toss night when the Indy Fuel come to town. The Fuel will enter Toledo having won their Friday night game against Quad City 3-1. Saturday’s game has a start time of 7:15 p.m. when Toledo looks to burn the Fuel.