BRAMPTON, ONTARIO — Less than 24 hours after being shut out by the Toledo Walleye on Hockey Day In Brampton, the Brampton Beast stepped up their execution significantly in the rematch to provide their fans an entertaining and spirited showdown against the top ranked team in the ECHL on Sunday afternoon at the Powerade Centre
Toledo ultimately gutted out a closely fought 6-4 victory.
Brandon MacLean, Reggie Traccitto, David Ling and Brandon Marino scored for the Beast (20-13-2-2), who will attempt to break a two-game losing streak on Friday night as they host the Kalamazoo Wings.
On a day that saw the Beast organization host Video Game Day, the two teams unintentionally paid homage to the enduring fighting game Super Smash Bros Melee by the way they played the first period. The opening frame of this on-ice showdown was filled with rollicking, high-octane, back-and-forth action — characteristics that are very much a calling card of the Nintendo classic.
The Beast drew first blood just three minutes and five seconds into the game. MacLean delivered the game-opening goal by rifling a backhand shot over diving Walleye goaltender Jake Paterson, who was in no position to contend with MacLean’s shot because he fully committed his body to deny Chris Auger on a partial breakaway.
A two-goal lead was nabbed a mere 12 seconds later, at 3:17, as rearguard Reggie Traccitto drifted a long-range snapshot past a screened Paterson.
Ling lifted the Beast to a 3-0 lead at 6:11. The 41-year-old Ling received a picture-perfect lateral pass from Mitch Zion — who successfully froze the Walleye defense with a fake windup — and then proceeded to beat Paterson with a wrist shot that connected with the top left corner of the Toledo cage.
This marker by Ling turned out to be a wakeup call for the Walleye. They responded to being in a three-goal hole by stepping up their pressure in the attacking zone to shift momentum in their favour.
Alden Hirschfield got the Walleye on the scoreboard at 10:36 by elevating the puck over Beast goaltender Zachary Fucale’s pads with a one-touch tap from the slot. Hirschfield was able to score the goal due to a nifty tape-to-tape pass from Shane Berschbach.
J.P. LaFontaine cut the Beast’s lead to 3-2 at 13:06 by drilling the puck through Fucale’s pads with a low, hard forehand shot.
Toledo outshot Brampton 11-7 in the first period.
The Walleye’s momentum from the second half of the first period carried over to the middle stanza as they landed two quick strikes before the five-minute mark to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage.
Zach Nastasiuk scored the equalizing goal just 25 seconds into the frame by slamming home the rebound of a shot from Berschbach, and Tyson Spink forged the Walleye ahead at 4:19 by getting the better of Fucale in a one-on-one battle with a hard forehand drive.
While the Walleye dictated the ice for the majority of the second period, the Beast had their chances to tie the game, especially on the man advantage. Brampton’s strong pressure on a late power-play chance forced Paterson to make some difficult saves to preserve the Walleye’s lead heading into the second intermission.
Both teams combined for 27 shots during the second period. Toledo registered 15 while Brampton managed 12.
Brampton pushed and prodded hard in the attacking zone through the early stages of the third period in order to score the game-tying goal. Their work was rewarded at the 7:25 mark as Marino’s soft, sharp-angle shot from the right corner somehow slipped past Paterson on the short side.
The explosive Toledo offense erased the tie less than five minutes later at 12:01 as Evan Rankin located a loose puck during a chaotic scramble in front of the Beast net and nudged it across the goal line. Simon Denis gave the Walleye their first multi-goal lead just 52 seconds later at 12:53 by hammering a shot from the right faceoff circle into the top half of the Brampton net.
Fucale stopped seven of nine shots in the third period and made a total of 35 saves in the game.
Paterson shut down 11 of 12 Brampton shots in the third period to earn a 28-save victory.
Brampton’s home game against Kalamazoo on Friday, January 20 is scheduled for a 7:15 puck drop.
Notes: Brampton went 0-for-1 on the power play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. The Beast penalty kill units are firing on all cylinders right now as they have killed off 14 of 15 (93.3 per cent) minor penalties. Brampton and Toledo will face each other four more times this season. Only one of these encounters (Feb. 10) will be hosted at the Powerade Centre. Mitch Zion collected two assists in the game and now has three points over his last three games.
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