The Walleye played with a high energy level that belied their position in the ECHL standings on Friday night.
Last-place Toledo had good jump through much of a contest against the North Division’s first-place Kalamazoo. The Walleye still saw their modest two-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 loss.
Brett Perlini scored the lone goal for Toledo (18-35-4), which took an initial 1-0 lead. The Wings (36-18-5) responded with two unanswered goals. Toledo goalie Hannu Toivonen was strong throughout and finished with 34 saves.
“Our compete level was extremely high, which is what we want,” said coach Dan Watson. “I liked the overall effort. Everything was there. Three lines were jumping and the seven defensemen were going.
“[Toivonen] competes and battles. He has great reflexes and that's what makes him so good.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game.
The Walleye opened a three-game weekend homestand before an announced crowd of 5,003 at the Huntington Center.
The Walleye took a 1-0 lead on Perlini's goal with 5:18 left in the second period. Perlini scored on a rebound right out in front off the Wings' net on an initial shot by Kyle Rogers.
“Rog had good speed going wide and he was going to make a play on net,” Perlini said. “I tried to find the soft area behind the D where the rebound would pop out to him and fortunately it came right to me. I just got it off quick.”
Kalamazoo tied it with 1:32 left in the second period. Justin Taylor made a slick move from in close to beat Toivonen.
“I should have stopped that one,” Toivonen said. “It was the end of the period and that kills the momentum for your team.”
Kalamazoo took a 2-1 lead with 10:33 left in the third. Matt Caria showed great patience to out wait Toivonen who went to the ice and Caria shoveled it in over the top of him.
Toledo's Jesse Messier was robbed twice by Kalamazoo goalie Jordan Binnington (30 saves) with 1:44 left.
“That is the way pucks are bouncing at home,” Watson said. “We have to get over that hump.”
Toledo has not won a home game since Jan. 26, a span of nine games. The Walleye are now 9-18-0 on home ice. The teams meet again today. Toledo hosts Fort Wayne on Sunday.
Toivonen, who returned to the team from an American Hockey League call up on Friday, was the primary reason the game remained scoreless through one period as he stopped 14 shots. Toivonen, a vet who has played in 61 NHL games, had appeared in just five AHL games after playing in 18 contests earlier this season with Toledo.
“It's one of those things where I feel like I'm at the point of my career where I have to play,” he said. “I feel fortunate that they've been so good to me and provided me with this opportunity. I want to work as hard as I can every day and help the team get some wins.”
Toivonen was impressed with the young Walleye roster, which is missing seven of its top 10 scorers because of roster moves.
“It's obviously been a tough year for the organization,” Toivonen said. “But there are no quitters in this room. Each guy wants to do their best every night. We are all playing for our futures too.
"The best way to make sure your future is bright is to stay in the present and play for your team.”
Perlini, who scored his third goal in the last five games, said Toivonen provides a presence.
“He is a true pro and you can learn from him. It would have been nice to get a few more for him,” he said. “But overall we played hard. We have a lot of guys in here that have something to play for.”
FISH TALES: Captain Kyle Rogers, who is the all-time leader in games played with the Walleye, played in his 264th contest. He passed former Storm player Nick Parillo for third on the all time Toledo list. Rogers, who took a stick to the mouth in the last game, wore a full mask. ... The Walleye's Tyler Elbrecht got into a fight with Ben Wilson. Both players landed some good shots. … Kalamazoo did not have a power play in the game. Toledo went 0 for 3 with the man advantage.