Toledo’s Kevin Lynch slides to gain control of the puck against South Carolina's Marc Hagel, left, and Drew Baker, center, on Wednesday. Toledo was shut out for the first time in its 11-game losing streak.
In a span of 11 consecutive losses, Dan Watson cannot find the common denominator that’s continued to fell the Walleye since the first week of February.
“It seems like it’s something different every single night,” said Watson, who took over as Toledo’s interim coach last week.
PHOTO GALLERY: Walleye lose 11th straight
Wednesday at the Huntington Center, the Walleye dropped their 11th straight game with a 2-0 loss to South Carolina, and Watson didn’t hesitate to pinpoint his team’s breakdown against the Stingrays.
“Tonight, it was our d-zone coverage,” Watson said. “We’re the worst team in the ECHL for goals against . We still need to improve that. We only gave up two goals, so we can live with that.
“But when you only give up two goals in this league, you should be able to, hopefully, get a win. But against the best team in goals-against average like South Carolina, it’s tough to do.”
The Stingrays have given up a league-low 125 goals in 57 games, and the Walleye were shut out for the first time in that 11-game stretch. The Walleye last won a game Feb. 7 at Cincinnati, and the last month has been marked by a lack of consistency on the ice.
“A lot of these games, we take 10 minutes off a game and a team jumps on us,” Walleye captain Kyle Rogers said. “Maybe at the end of a period, we’ll get a goal and pick up the momentum, but the next three or four shifts going into a period, they’ll dominate us and take the game for the next ten minutes.”
Creating that consistency, Rogers said, is key.
“It’s huge, especially when we’re in a slide like this. You’ve got to show up every shift and win every battle. If you start winning those shifts, it gives the guys momentum and you go from there.
“We have less than 20 games left and everybody’s trying out for this team for next year, or trying out for a new contract for the following year. My job is to keep these guys positive.
"Even though we’re not winning, let’s look at the positives of the game. Go by that, and keep working hard in practice.”
Peter Boyd gave the Stingrays a 1-0 lead five minutes into the first period, and South Carolina took a 2-0 lead on Wayne Simpson’s shorthanded goal at 12:28 of the second.
With teammate Steve Spinell penalized for tripping at 11:08, Simpson beat Walleye goalie Jared Coreau (41 saves) with a quick one-timer off a 2-on-1 play, and the Stingrays nearly made it 3-0 when Jack Downing’s shot towards an open net went wide of the Toledo goal with about 11 minutes left in the third.
South Carolina goalie Allen York made 27 saves, and the Walleye play Friday at Cincinnati, another attempt to end what has become a team-record winless stretch.
“It’s going to take a perfect game now,” Watson said. “No mistakes. We made two mistakes [against South Carolina].
"It’s going to take a complete 60 minutes of almost no-mistake hockey.”
FISH TALES: The Walleye signed three players Wednesday, defenseman Ken Peroff and forwards Jesse Messier and John May. All three were in Toledo’s lineup against South Carolina.
Peroff scored eight goals and 21 assists in his senior season at the University of Guelph (Ont.), while Messier scored 55 goals and added 74 assists in 131 games at York University in Toronto.
May played in two games earlier this season with the Walleye, and played for the Walleye in 30 games from 2009 to 2013.