TULSA, Okla. – The Toledo Walleye are one win away from advancing to their first Kelly Cup Finals in franchise history after snatching home-ice advantage with a 4-1 victory over the Tulsa Oilers on Saturday at the BOK Center.
Now carrying a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals, the Walleye can clinch a berth in the final round against the Newfoundland Growlers as early as Monday, when the series returns to the Huntington Center for Game 6. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
The Walleye were quick out of the blocks and outshot Tulsa 11-3 to begin the contest, but the hosts started the scoring on the power play 9:43 into the opening period. Stephen Perfetto collected a rebound in the left corner and hurled the puck to Eric Drapluk at the left point for a wrist shot that deflected off the stick of Adam Pleskach in front and dipped past Pat Nagle’s catching glove.
Shane Berschbach restored parity on the game’s next shot on goal 2:09 later. Randy Gazzola took a pass from David Pope near the left half-boards and backhanded the puck toward the high slot to A.J. Jenks, who quickly fed Berschbach at the lower part of the right circle for a shot that slid underneath the right pad of Devin Williams.
The Oilers' next trip to the power play quickly turned sour, as Jenks potted a shorthanded goal to give the Walleye a 2-1 edge. After a Charlie Sampair outlet pass bounced off Alex Dostie’s right skate, Ben Storm gained the zone along the right wall and resisted Sampair's grasp enough to send a one-handed pass to Jenks alone in the slot for a stellar forehand-to-backhand breakaway attempt at the 17:38 mark. Having exited Game 1 of the best-of-seven series with a lower-body injury, Williams struggled to get up after attempting to extend his pads on the play, and was replaced by Ian Keserich, who last appeared in relief of Evan Fitzpatrick in Game 2.
Moments after Matt Register’s shorthanded breakaway attempt clanked off the outside of the right post, Tyler Spezia doubled Toledo’s advantage on the power play with 9:32 left in the second. Dylan Sadowy stepped out of the penalty box after serving consecutive holding and slashing minors, gained the zone on the left wing and set up Spezia in the slot for a backhanded breakaway effort that slid through Keserich’s five-hole.
Still trailing by a 3-1 count late in the final frame, Tulsa burned its timeout with 1:16 remaining, and nearly sliced its deficit in half when Pleskach wristed his breakaway attempt off the right post with approximately 30 seconds left. However, the Walleye padded their lead when Bryan Moore assisted on Berschbach’s second goal of the night, a tap-in into an empty net with seven ticks left.
Nagle turned aside 29-of-30 shots to improve his record to 11-5 with a 1.71 goals-against average and 0.944 save percentage. Williams was handed the loss after stopping 15 of Toledo’s first 17 shots, before Keserich blocked 19-of-20 in 41:03 of relief.
Toledo scored on one of its four power play opportunities and finished 7-of-8 on the penalty kill.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – A.J. Jenks (shorthanded goal, assist)2. Toledo – Pat Nagle (W, 29 saves)3. Toledo – Shane Berschbach (two goals)