Professional Hockey Returns to Toledo

TOLEDO,
Ohio — Toledo hockey fans finally got what they were waiting for Friday night, a hockey game.

In
front of sellout crowd of 8,000 at the brand new Lucas County Arena, the Toledo
Walleye opened their inaugural season with as they hosted the defending ECHL
regular season champion the Florida Everblades. 

“[It
was] Fantastic, you can’t ask for anything more there” Toledo coach Nick Victucci said. “They [the crowd] were
loud, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.”

The
game was the first professional hockey contest in Northwest Ohio since the
Toledo Storm disbanded operations after the 2006-07 season. 

While
it was the Walleye’s franchise opener it was the Everblades who came home with
the 2-1 win on the strength of strong goaltending by Mike Morrison, as he
turned away 18-of-19 Toledo shots, including a couple highlight real saves.

“He’s
an NHL goalie, he’s played in the NHL for a reason,” Vitucci said.
“He really came up with some key saves.”

Late
in the second period Morrison kicked away a Toledo one-timer with his left pad,
and helped seal the victory late with a brilliant breakaway save on Justin
Hodgman. Hodgman
broke free near the Everblade blue line, but Morrison matched his left-to-right
deke perfectly and kicked away the backhand attempt.

While
Morrison picked up the win, Walleye goalie Alec Richards played well in his
first professional start stopping 25 shots.

Florida
scored the eventual game winner early in the third period, when Jacob
Micflikier and Rob Hennigar broke free for a 2-on-1 chance, which ended with
Micflikier lifting a shot over a sliding Richards.

Two
periods earlier Florida’s Scott Hotham scored the first goal in Lucas County
Arena history, when his one-timer from the slot beat beat Walleye Richards through
the five-hole.

“That
was big, to quite the crowd down and try relax a little bit,” Florida
coach Malcolm Cameron said. “We’ve got some good veteran leaders on our
team, and they knew how to handle it.”

Hotham’s power play tally at 7:42 of the first was the first of his ECHL career,
and came after centering feed from Hennigar out of the right corner.

Even
though Hotham and Micflikier’s goals proved to much for the Walleye, they did
get a chance to celebrate in front of the home crowd in the third period.

Maxime
Tanguay scored the franchise’s first goal 5:37 into the third period on the
power play. Toledo cycled the puck along the right side boards, until it was
finally swept to Tanguay who knocked the loose puck past Morrison.

“It
was great, the crowd was excited,” Tanguay said. “I just wish we
could have won the game.”

Assists
on the goal were picked up by Adam Hobson and Brock Wilson.

Toledo
almost tied the game at two half-way through the period, when Dominic Osman took
a pass on top of the right circle, but his wrist shot sailed just wide of the
far post.

Even
though they didn’t get the win, Toledo fans still went home happy knowing
hockey is alive and well in Northwest Ohio.

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