The Pittsburgh Vengeance rallied from behind to win on Saturday and had to cling to an early lead on Sunday in their weekend sweep of the Toledo Cherokee.
Austin Martz opened the scoring early Saturday, redirecting an Austin Zimmerman point shot to give the Vengeance a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the first period. The Cherokee were held shotless for over half of the opening frame until a costly Pittsburgh turnover left the puck on the blade of Toledo forward Spencer Sandberg, who beat Vengeance netminder Joel DeSimone to even the score.
Defense was the name of the game for the remainder of the first and second periods, as Toledo was held to just eight shots through two periods and the Vengeance were unable to solve Toledo goalie Alan Brouillette.
The Cherokee finally managed to break the tie halfway through the third period, as a strange redirection in front left Cherokee forward Nick Nappi an open net to put Toledo up 2-1. Under a minute later, Pittsburgh managed to tie the game as Thomas Polster scored a highlight reel goal after an outstanding pass from Anthony Bate to even the score at 2 apiece.
A Pittsburgh penalty with just over two minutes remaining in the game appeared to put the game in Toledo's hands, but a clearing pass from Christian Juliana sprung James Unger on a shorthanded breakaway, and Unger put the Vengeance ahead for good with a nifty wrist shot from the slot, beating Brouillette on the glove side with 1:49 left in regulation. Pittsburgh held on to the lead for the 3-2 victory in the opening game of the series. DeSimone finished with 19 saves on 21 Toledo shots for his second victory of the season.
Sunday's game featured domination from the Vengeance early on. Pittsburgh tallied 20 shots in the opening frame, with Dominick Glavach opening the scoring on a beautiful individual shorthanded effort for his 14th goal of the season. Nathaniel Schwartz put the Vengeance up 2-0 with a wrister from the slot assisted by Simon Soderberg.
Pittsburgh added two more goals in the middle frame, as Ben Oslick scored on a slapshot from the blue line after forward Jacob Friedman skated around the entire Toledo zone before finding Oslick with space. Justin Bioni notched a powerplay goal after a redirection in front by Friedman left a juicy rebound to the side of the net, and the Vengeance held a 4-0 lead
halfway through the game. The Cherokee were not going to head home silently, as Toledo forward Tristan Snyder was finally able to solve Vengeance netminder Tyler Hawk with two goals in the second period, giving Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead heading into the final frame.
The Vengeance came out in the third looking to lock down defensively, and managed to hold the Cherokee to just six shots in the closing period. Hawk stopped all six, including a Snyder penalty shot, ending the game with 21 saves on 23 Cherokee attempts and securing the win for the Vengeance.
Pittsburgh improved their record to 8-5 on the season, good for 2nd place in the NA3HL East Division. They will play a home-and-home series with the Wooster Oilers this weekend, opening Friday night at 7:45 in Wooster before heading back to the Alpha Ice Complex for the Saturday night rematch at 6:30. The Vengeance will be hosting a tailgate in the back lot, so be sure to come down and support the boys!