Walleye off to best start in five years

 

After missing the playoffs last season, first-year head coach Derek Lalonde has the Toledo Walleye off to a strong start in 2014-15. The Walleye have won four straight games, outscoring their opponents 18-8 over that span, and are 6-2-0 on the season. Toledo, which is off to its best start after eight games since going 5-2-1 in 2009-10, is in third place of the North Division, but trails first-place Fort Wayne by just four points.

 

Toledo wrapped up a five-game road trip with a come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win at South Carolina on Tuesday. Josh Holmstrom and Shane Sims both scored goals in the final 2:07 of regulation to force extra time, and Anthony Luciani and Kyle Bonis tallied goals in the shootout to lift the Walleye to the win. Jared Coreau stopped 35 shots in regulation and overtime, and stopped all four Stingrays’ shootout attempts, to record the win in goal.

 

The Walleye returned home on Saturday for the first time since Oct. 18 and skated away with a 5-0 win against Evansville. Jeff Lerg stopped all 14 shots he faced to pick up the shutout while five different Toledo players tallied goals. Marek Tvrdon led the way offensively with four points (1g-3a) while Tyler Barnes and Troy Schwab each contributed a goal and two assists.

 

Toledo concluded the week with a marathon 13-round shootout in a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati. Toledo native Alden Hirschfeld scored his first goal of the season with just 2:28 remaining in the third period to tie the game and force overtime. Coreau earned his second shootout win of the week, turning aside 24 shots through overtime, then making 10 saves on 13 attempts in the shootout.

 

Luciani has paced the Walleye offense this season, as he enters the week on an eight-game point streak. His 10 assists are tied for second in the league while his 12 points have him tied for seventh.

 

Lerg is tied for fourth in the ECHL with a .939 save percentage while his 1.50 goals-against average ranks fifth overall. He has allowed two goals or less in each of his four appearances this season.

 

The Walleye are the only team in the league to rank in the top six in both goals per game (6th at 3.75) and goals-against per game (T-3rd at 2.50), as well as in the top five in both shots per game (2nd at 34.88) and shots-against per game (5th at 26.38).

 

Toledo’s penalty-kill unit has also been a strength in the early going, allowing just one power-play goal and leading the league with a 95.7 percent success rate (22-for-23).

 

The Walleye continue their nine-game home stand with three games this week, hosting Fort Wayne on Friday, Orlando on Saturday and Reading on Sunday.