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Walleye come from behind to stun Swamp Rabbits in OT

Saturday, October 13th
Walleye come from behind to stun Swamp Rabbits in OT

GREENVILLE, S.C.A.J. Jenks capitalized on the man advantage with 1:43 remaining in overtime as the Toledo Walleye opened their 10th ECHL regular season with a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

The Walleye (1-0-0-0) fell behind by a 3-0 margin in the second period, but Matt Register and Dylan Sadowy scored 56 seconds apart late in the frame before the latter netted his second goal of the night on the power play with 1:21 remaining in regulation to force the extra session. In all, the visitors were granted seven power play opportunities, cashing in on their final two to complete an improbable comeback.

Toledo owned a 13-6 advantage in shots during the opening stanza, but former Walleye forward Austen Brassard started the scoring for Greenville with a shorthanded goal 3:22 into the middle frame. Michael Pelech stole the puck from Register in the neutral zone and gained the line on an eventual 2-on-0, sending a pass through the slot to Brassard for a one-timer into an open cage to stake the hosts to a 1-0 edge.

The Swamp Rabbits doubled their advantage when Chris Izmirlian found the back of the net at the 8:33 mark of the second. Charley Graaskamp left the puck for J.C. Brassard at the left point, who launched a diagonal pass to Izmirlian at the right post for a tap-in to give Greenville a 2-0 lead.

Toledo’s struggles continued to mount, as Bryan Moore was assessed a match penalty for slew-footing 9:46 into the second stanza. On the ensuing power play, Johno May worked his way from the left half-boards to the top of the left circle and fired a wrist shot past a screened Pat Nagle to open up a 3-0 cushion with 7:27 left in the middle period.

Despite being a man down, the Walleye seized the momentum on a bizarre sequence. After the Swamp Rabbits retreated from the Toledo zone on a delayed offside, Register cleared the puck in the direction of Greenville netminder Garrett Bartus, who fanned on a pass attempt and gifted Toledo its first goal of the young season with 5:24 left in the second.

Less than a minute later, Daniel Leavens lost his balance behind the Greenville net, but managed to make a centering pass to Sadowy in front for a backhanded effort to trim the deficit to 3-2 heading into the second intermission.

The Walleye were given a golden opportunity to even the score when Chad Duchesne was whistled for slashing with 1:58 remaining in regulation. As Nagle was heading to the bench to create a 6-on-4 advantage, Jenks set up Sadowy on a one-timer at the 18:39 mark to salvage at least a point for the visitors.

The Swamp Rabbits once again found themselves having to face the Walleye's when Graaskamp was caught hooking with 2:54 remaining in overtime, prompting Toledo head coach Dan Watson to burn his timeout. With Register set up as the lone defenseman, the veteran line of Shane Berschbach and T.J. Hensick assisted on Jenks' point-blank shot to wrap up the contest and stun the crowd of 10,037.

Greenville finished 1-for-3 on the man advantage. Nagle turned aside 21-of-24 shots for the win, while Bartus blocked 34-of-38 shots in defeat.

What’s Next:The Walleye remain in Greenville on Saturday for their second and final regular season matchup against the Swamp Rabbits. Puck drop from Bon Secours Wellness Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Three Stars:1. Toledo – A.J. Jenks (game-winning-goal, assist)2. Toledo – Dylan Sadowy (two goals)3. Greenville – J.C. Brassard (two assists)

Fish Tales:• Tyler Spezia made his professional debut with the Walleye in Friday’s game. Additionally, 112-game NHL veteran and four-time AHL All-Star T.J. Hensick appeared in his first ECHL contest.• The Walleye are 5-4-1 in season openers. Toledo has started the season on the road each of the last four seasons and five of their last six overall.• Greenville head coach Kevin Kerr played one season with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm, amassing 54 points (27-27-54) and 120 penalty minutes in 62 games during the 2001-02 campaign.

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