TOLEDO, OH – Coming into Friday night’s tilt at Huntington Center, Toledo had lost two regulation games in a row for the first time this season, dropping one-goal decisions against Cincinnati and Fort Wayne. Worcester was in town for their first trip to Toledo, and the second meeting between the two teams. Toledo won that first meeting 3-2, with Tyler Barnes netting the game-winning goal and Pat Nagle getting the victory. Nagle had the night off though, as the starting goaltenders for this contest were Mitch Gillam for Worcester and Matěj Machovský for the Walleye.
Toledo’s third game in as many days started off with the Railers controlling the shots on goal, which would be a theme of the game. Worcester put five shots on Machovský within the first five minutes, but none of the shots were particularly difficult and were easily stopped. Gillam was pressured by the Walleye offense, but didn’t see a shot on goal until 6:40 thanks to his defense making it difficult for Toledo to get a shot through. Unfortunately for Gillam, the shot he did face at 6:40 was one that he couldn’t stop, as Zach Nastasiuk tipped the puck past the netminder thanks to a perfectly placed pass from Luke Esposito. Toledo went up 1-0, with only that one shot on goal. Worcester responded by again bringing the pressure against Machovský and the Walleye defense, but still could not get a puck in the back of the net. Patrick McCarron earned the game’s first penalty when he was sent to the box for slashing at 15:49, but Toledo was able to kill it off. Worcester’s Chris Langkow, who earlier hit the post with a shot that did get past Machovský, got called for slashing, which put Toledo on their first power play with 57 seconds left in the first. The Walleye weren’t able to score before the horn sounded, so the score remained 1-0 with shots on goal being 12-3 in favor of the Railers.
Worcester looked to kill off the penalty to begin the period, and was looking good until Ashton Rome was sent to the box at 36 seconds into the period to give the Walleye 27 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey. Although the Railers prevented any shots during the 5-on-3, Toledo had one of their best offensive series of the night during the second power play with four shots during the second man advantage. Gillam was able to weather the storm and kept it a one-goal game though. Worcester responded by returning the favor, over the course of seven minutes the Railers put eight shots on Machovský while limiting Toledo to one shot on goal during that time. Quality proved to be more important than quantity though, as the young Finnish defenseman Vili Saarijarvi sent a bouncing shot from the top of the slot past Gillam and put Toledo up 2-0 on the team’s ninth shot at the 11:31 mark. Worcester went back on the attack, and was finally awarded for their persistence when Barry Almeida scored off an Ashton Rome rebound to get the Railers to within one at 13:26. After Toledo and Worcester went back and forth for a few minutes, Justin Hamonic from the Railers got called for hooking with 1:28 left in the period. Toledo again failed to make anything happen before the end of the period, so the score remained 2-1 with shots in favor of Worcester 26-10.
Toledo’s power-play unit had 32 seconds to work with to start the third, and unlike their chance to begin the second they cashed in. With four seconds remaining on the power play, Kyle Bonis lit the lamp after getting a perfect cross-ice pass from Nastasiuk, putting Toledo ahead 3-1. Toledo wasn’t done scoring yet though, and neither was a Vili Saarijarvi, who netted his second of the game a minute and thirty-three seconds later when he lasered one past Gillam. Woody Hudson tried to get Worcester’s spirit back when he dropped the gloves with Connor Crisp, and after a brief exchange, found himself on the ice with Crisp earning the takedown and standing ovation from the crowd. Worcester had many golden scoring chances but couldn’t take advantage, while the Walleye capitalized on their own to take home a 4-1 victory.
Shots on goal finished at 34-20 in favor of Worcester, who went 0/2 on the power play. Toledo went 1/4 thanks to Bonis’ power play goal. Matěj Machovský earned his second win of the season to improve to 2-2-0-0, while Mitch Gillam fell to 3-4-0-0.
Your three stars of the from third to first were: Zach Nastasiuk with one goal and one assist, Matěj Machovský with 33 saves on 34 shots, and Vili Saarijarvi earning the first star with a two goal, plus-3 performance.
Toledo will play their fourth game in five days Sunday afternoon when they head up to take on Brampton for a 2 o’clock matinee game.