TULSA, Okla. – The Toledo Walleye advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, thanks to a 6-2 victory over the Tulsa Oilers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday at the BOK Center.
After closing out their third consecutive series on the road, the Walleye will compete for the Kelly Cup against the Newfoundland Growlers, who became the first Canadian team in ECHL history to reach the final round after eliminating the Florida Everblades in five games to clinch the Eastern Conference title. Newfoundland will host Games 1 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. EDT, before the series shifts to the Huntington Center on Wednesday, May 29 for as many as three straight games.
Fans are invited to catch every Walleye road game on Fifth Third Field’s 2,500-square-foot LED video board, with gates opening one hour prior to puck drop. Under a 2-3-2 format, The Walleye will stage Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday, May 29 and Friday, May 31, as well as Game 5 on Saturday, June 1, if necessary. All home contests will start at 7:35 p.m.
The Walleye carried the play to begin the winner-take-all contest, and grabbed the lead 4:10 into the opening period. Although A.J. Jenks’ pass intended for David Pope was blocked by Adam Pleskach in the slot, the puck rolled toward the right circle to Shane Berschbach, who promptly slid the puck thorugh the goal mouth to Pope for a simple one-timer.
Toledo struck again at the 9:29 mark to build a 2-0 advantage. Trevor Hamilton skated out of his own end and hoisted the puck forward to Zach Gallant, who split the defense before getting two chances to slide a shot through the five-hole of Ian Keserich.
Tulsa’s Stephen Perfetto responded on the power play with a quick shot from the left circle at 12:24, but the Walleye restored their two-goal edge before the end of the frame. Bryan Moore controlled a bouncing puck at the lower part of the left circle and threw a pass across the goal mouth to Chris Crane for a tap-in with 2:46 left in the first period.
The Walleye eventually pushed their lead to 4-1 with 6:32 to go in the second stanza. After escaping pressure at the left half-wall, Moore dropped the puck to Matt Register at the blue line for a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Keserich's blocker. Tulsa would have a glimmer of hope heading into the second intermission, however, as Jared Thomas swatted a rebound out of mid-air over the right shoulder of Pat Nagle with 27 seconds on the clock.
The Walleye withstood a goal-mouth scramble and a Brenden Kotyk boarding minor in the third period to keep their two-goal lead intact before finishing off the Oilers with a pair of empty-netters in the closing stages. Moore outwaited a sliding Tulsa defenseman and gently backhanded the puck into the vacated net with 2:05 to go, and Ben Storm added a sixth goal when he flipped a shot from center ice 46 seconds later.
Tulsa went 1-for-2 on the man advantage, while Toledo did not have a single power play opportunity. Nagle stopped 24-of-26 shots to improve his postseason record to 12-6, as Keserich blocked 27-of-31 in a losing cause at the other end.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – Matt Register (goal, assist)2. Tulsa – Jared Thomas (goal, assist)3. Toledo – Bryan Moore (empty-net goal, two assists)