It took an ugly, flukey goal in the opening minute of Saturday night’s game for the Toledo Walleye to finally break a lengthy goalless streak.
Toledo entered the game having not scored a goal in its previous seven periods of play. But the Walleye got on the board just 1 minute, 4 seconds into its game with Manchester.
Young fans decked out in wizard gear for Harry Potter Night at the Huntington Center cheer on Austin Brassard (5) of the Toledo Walleye as he battles Manchester's Mikkel Aagaard for the puck.
Forward Austen Brassard scored on Toledo’s first shot, and the Walleye went on to drop the Monarchs 3-0 before a standing-room-only crowd of 8,374 at the Huntington Center — the largest crowd in the organization’s nine-year history.
The Walleye entered the game without a goal since Dec. 30, when they scored with 11 seconds left in the second period at Wheeling. The Walleye had been held scoreless for 140 minutes of game play.
“A flukey goal got us going,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “We talked about it before the game … that it might be an ugly goal that went in off of them. We just wanted to get pucks to the net. It creates chaos and you never know what it's going to hit. So I'm glad we got that one early.”
Once again, the Walleye scored on their first shot of the period when Shane Berschbach put Toledo up 2-0 just 2:25 into the second. Tyler Barnes then put it away with a power-play goal with 42 seconds left.
Toledo rookie goalie Matej Machovsky (4-6-1) earned his first shutout in the ECHL, finishing with 33 saves.
“Obviously it's a good feeling,” Machovsky said. “It's good to get that first one. But it was more the way the boys played today. We had to bounce back after those two loses. So the boys played great and they helped me.”
The record-setting crowd attended the second night of the team’s “wizardly weekend.” The Walleye players wore special Harry Potter-themed jerseys in tribute to the popular book and movie series.
The previous records were standing-room-only crowds of 8,300 set several times since 2015. The official seating capacity at the downtown arena that was built in 2009 is 7,431.
The Walleye had been shut out in consecutive games by the same 3-0 score (at Fort Wayne on New Year’s Eve and against Cincinnati on Friday night). Toledo most recently was shut out in back-to-back games in the 2013-14 season, when it happened twice to that team which finished with the worst record in team history.
Toledo's Austin Brassard (5) is congratulated by teammate Shane Berschbach (10) after scoring the first goal of Saturday's 3-0 win over Manchester at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.
Blade/Katie Rausch Enlarge
“It was obviously a much higher compete level,” Watson said. “We challenged guys. We kept it simple. We came out with good energy in front of a huge crowd.”
On the first goal, Brassard flipped a backhanded shot toward the Manchester goal, and it deflected in off of a Monarchs defenseman for an instant 1-0 lead.
Berschbach then scored on a one-timer on a nifty passing play. Berschbach converted after two nice, quick feeds from Kevin Gibson to Brassard, who sent a pass across the top of the crease to Berschbach, who banged it home.
“Our intensity was much better,” Berschbach said. “Watty called it before the game. We were going to get a greasy one to start. We finally got a bounce. We fed off that and didn't look back.”
Machovsky and Manchester goalie Branden Komm, who finished with 31 stops, matched each other with timely saves just a minute apart late in the first.
Machovsky, a native of the Czech Republic, had recorded 14 shutouts in four seasons in a Czech professional league.
“He's deserve a better record and a better fate,” Watson said. “We just haven't had the goal production for him. So to see him walk out of here with a shutout, I'm extremely happy for him. It was nice to see 'Macho' put on a great performance. He's stood tall for us.”
The Walleye had three power-play opportunities in the second and had plenty of quality chances with seven shots, but could not increase the lead. They then failed to convert another man-advantage midway through the third.
Manchester (21-12-3) entered the game leading the ECHL North Division, while Toledo (21-10-3) had fallen into second place in the Central. It was the only time the teams will meet this season.
The team is off the next four days for the ECHL all-star break.
“This is huge. We don't like to lose two in a row, let alone two shutouts,” Watson said. “It was a mental hurdle to get over.”
The Walleye continue a five-game homestand with three games next weekend at the downtown arena. Toledo hosts rival Fort Wayne on Friday before taking on Kansas City on Saturday, and Cincinnati on Jan. 14.
FISH TALES: A total of $28,150 was raised through an auction of the Harry Potter jerseys after the game for Adopt America Network, which specializes in placing special needs children in homes. The highest bids went to Kevin Tansey ($1,750) and A.J. Jenks ($1,700).
“It worked out well, with it being Saturday night with the special jerseys,” Machovsky said. “It's great in Toledo with the big crowds every home game. So that was very good.”
The highest bid ever for a Walleye promotional jersey was in 2016, when a bidder won Evan Rankin's Don Cherry jersey for $5,000. In 2012, a bidder spent $4,200 for a Captain America jersey worn by Hall of Famer Kyle Rogers in 2012. Defenseman Cody Lampl's Batman jersey sold for $3,750 during the auction in 2015.
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