KALAMAZOO, MI— The Kalamazoo Wings fell behind early but never gave up as they nearly mounted a dramatic comeback against the Toledo Walleye in a 6-3 loss on Saturday night at Wings Event Center.
The Wings created some quality chances in the early goings but were unable to cash in, and the Walleye earned the first strike of the night. Knocking down a bouncing puck in the offensive zone, Parker Reno slid a pass to the high slot where Erik Bradford turned and fired over the leg of Joel Martin.
Toledo added to their lead eight minutes later after making Kalamazoo pay for a defensive-zone turnover. Unable to clear the puck from their own end, Mike Embach forced a steal and wired a shot through a screen and into the top corner of the goal. Embach’s late first-period goal sent Kalamazoo into the locker room facing a 2-0 hole.
Earning their first power play of the game early in the second period, the Walleye continued to generate chances and they were rewarded with the extra attacker. After a shot was knocked aside by Martin, the loose puck was jabbed back in front of the goal where Tyler Barnes poked it over the line.
Less than two minutes later the Wings generated some sustained pressure in the Walleye zone and lit the lamp for the first time of the game. Good puck movement allowed Jon Jutzi to earn some room at the blue line, where he flung a long wrist shot to the goal. Jutzi’s drive was tipped in front by Danny Moynihan and over the right leg of Pat Nagle, cutting the Toledo lead to 3-1.
The Wings carried the momentum from their goal for the next few minutes, but it was quickly silenced by the Walleye. Barnes chipped the puck in deep, chased it down on his own, and sent a pass to the stick-side post where Christian Hilbrich was waiting to one-time his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
Aiming to claw away at the deficit, the Wings needed under five minutes of the third period to get within a pair of goals. Setting up a lovely give-and-go play from the right wing corner, Brendan Bradley and Scott Henegar played a little pitch and catch that allowed Bradley to haul in a pass with room to snap a shot past Nagle and make it 4-2.
With Kalamazoo attacking full-throttle to try and erase the Walleye lead, they earned a five-on-three power play with under five minutes to go. Settling in on the top of the right circle, Josh Pitt reeled in a pass from Kyle Bushee and lifted a wrist shot just under the bar for his 20th goal of the season. Pitt’s marker made it a one-goal game in the closing minutes of regulation.
Within a goal and with under two minutes remaining, Martin was pulled to the bench in favor of an extra attacker. Shane Berschbach tallied an empty netter, and Hilbrich did the same with seconds remaining as the Walleye skated to a 6-3 win.
Next: Kalamazoo @ Cincinnati Cyclones- Sunday, February 18, 3:05 p.m., U.S. Bank Arena.
Broadcast information: Sunday’s game will air on AM 1660 The Fan or online at www.1660thefan.com/listen-live.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Moss
Single-game tickets are on sale! Tickets start as low as $10 and can be purchased at http://kwings.com/SingleGameTickets or at the Wings Event Center box office.
Wings Event Center, owned and operated by Greenleaf Hospitality Group, is home to the Kalamazoo Wings professional hockey team and a full entertainment venue offering concerts, sporting events, family shows and trade shows. Built in 1974, Wings Event Center values partnerships with the community to bring events and attractions that enrich the lives of residents in the Kalamazoo area.