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Bullfrogs Get Wheel and Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Could something as small as a change in wheels be enough to rally a team to victory?

According to several Bullfrogs, that indeed, was a key factor in their 6-5 shootout victory over the Blades Wednesday night at the Pond.

Todd Wetzel scored two goals and had two assists and Glenn Stewart scored the winner in the shootout, raising the Bullfrogs’ Roller Hockey International record to 5-2. Their home winning streak, which spans two seasons, is now at 13. The Bullfrogs are 20-0-2 at home since losing their 1996 home opener to the now-defunct San Diego Barracudas. The Bullfrogs remain three points behind front-running San Jose in the Western Conference. San Jose defeated Sacramento, 7-5, Wednesday.

The Blades (2-1-2) led, 5-3, with 10 minutes remaining and still earned a point in the standings despite the loss. The Blades are tied for third place with St. Louis, which hosts the Bullfrogs tonight.

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“That was a tough one to lose,” Blade Coach Mark Hardy said. “Our penalty killing was not good. It’s a game we probably should have won and that was my fault.”

If technology is, indeed, driving the in-line skating industry, then Wednesday’s wheel switch may have been a case in point.

For the last several games, the Bullfrogs have wondered whether they have gotten the performance they needed out of the wheels. That may have been why their performance in last Saturday’s 9-7 victory over Sacramento appeared lethargic, at best.

They were getting beaten on defense, as well.

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“A lot of the guys switched wheels at halftime,” forward Victor Gervais said. “It really made a difference.”

The Bullfrogs, did, in fact, seem quicker on their skates in the final quarter, particularly when they rallied from a two-goal deficit after back to back goals by Doug Ast gave the Blades a 5-3 fourth-quarter lead.

But Wetzel scored with 10 minutes seven seconds left to play, cutting the Blades’ lead to 5-4. He knotted the score, 5-5, on a solo blast with 3:31 to go.

Goaltender Rob Laurie was sensational in the final 90 seconds of regulation, stopping six shots on a Blade power-play attempt.

In the shootout, Ast beat Laurie, then Laurie stopped the final four shots.

Wetzel made it 1-1, in the shootout and after Gervais and Jim Bermingham missed, Stewart slide a shot under the right leg of Blade goaltender Jeff Ferguson.

McCaughey said he was impressed when his team stopped the Blades when they were a man down. The Blades were only one for five on power plays; the Bullfrogs converted on four of five attempts.

“They have a great power play. It’s one of the best in the league,” said Bullfrog Coach Brad McCaughey. “We knew going in that we had to do a good job and play smart on our penalty killing to have a chance.”

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McCaughey would not comment on the change of wheels, but did acknowledge that his team played a better second half.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BULLFROGS TONIGHT

Opponent--St. Louis Vipers

Site--Kiel Center, St. Louis

Records--Bullfrogs 5-2, Vipers 3-3.

Bullfrog update--Glenn Stewart got the winning goal in a shootout Wednesday night to lead the Bullfrogs over the Blades, 7-6. Todd Wetzel also scored in the shootout and finished with two goals and two assists. Goaltender Rob Laurie stopped 32 shots. The Bullfrogs are in the midst of playing four games in five days.

Viper update--After two losses at the Pond, St. Louis finally gets the Bullfrogs in its rink, where it has traditionally been tough to beat. The Vipers defeated Sacramento, 12-5, Tuesday night and are in the middle of a nine-day stretch in which they will play six games. Goaltender Ken Shepard has been the loser both times against the Bullfrogs, while the team’s other goaltender, Mark Cavallin, ranks second in the league with a 5.50 goals-against average.

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