The Toledo Walleye are the best team in the ECHL this season for a reason. Playing stifling defense and balancing it with offensive firepower, the Walleye entered Wednesday night's contest against the Utah Grizzlies with an 18-4 record.
Holding the Grizzlies to a season low 19 shots, the Walleye offense did the rest at the Maverik Center, defeating Utah 5-3.
"Ultimately I thought we gave them way too much respect, particularly in the first period," Grizzlies coach Tim Branham said. "We know we can play with this team and we need to learn to have confidence right from the start. Once we realized they were just a normal team, we started playing."
For the fifth game in a row, the Grizzlies gave up the first goal of the game. Tylor Spink got the Walleye on the board with two seconds remaining in Toledo's first power play on a sharp wrist shot that beat Utah goalie Ryan McKay.
Halfway through the second period, Tyler Sikura fired a shot past McKay on an odd-man rush to make it 2-0 for the visitors. Utah would fight back late in the period and cut the deficit to 2-1, as a turnover by Toledo deep in its zone was controlled by Brad Navin, who promptly shot past a surprised Walleye goalie Cal Hester.
Whatever momentum the Grizzlies had acquired with the Navin goal was vanquished in the early moments of the third period. A pair of goals by Simon Denis and Carter Sandlak less than one minute apart thwarted any hope of a Utah comeback as the Grizzlies struggled to keep the puck out of their zone.
The Grizzlies would fight back with a pair of goals to make things interesting at 4-2. Navin scored his second of the night and when Mathieu Aubin's shot got past Hester with less than two minutes remaining, suddenly Utah had a glimmer of hope.
However, forced to play with an empty net, Walleye forward Shane Berschbach ended the Grizzlies' comeback attempt.