TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye keep hope alive in their quest for the franchise’s first Kelly Cup, as they held off the Newfoundland Growlers 3-2 in Game 5 on Saturday before a Huntington Center-record crowd of 8,588.
Now trailing three games to two in the Kelly Cup Finals presented by Smile Direct Club, the Walleye will return to Mile One Centre for Game 6 on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Fans are invited to catch the action at Fifth Third Field, where the game will be screened on the new 2,500-square-foot LED video board. Admission is free, and food and beverage will be available for purchase when gates open one hour prior to puck drop.
In all, the Walleye sold out 10 of their 12 postseason home dates and led the ECHL with an average playoff attendance of 7,465 fans per game. In addition to drawing 7,736 fans for the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic, Toledo sold out 31 of 36 regular season games at the Huntington Center, and ranked a strong second in the league by averaging 7,783 fans per night.
The Walleye opened the scoring 2:27 into the contest on the strength of an aggressive forecheck from their third line. After Hunter Smith forced a turnover deep in the Newfoundland zone, Ben Storm steered the puck in front to Tyler Spezia, who was able to kick the puck onto his stick and slide a backhanded shot past Michael Garteig.
The Growlers bounced back to even the score with 6:48 remaining in the same period. Marcus Power blocked Sam Jardine’s wrist shot from the left point, and stayed on the backhand to guide a shot around Pat Nagle’s left pad.
Ryan Obuchowski put Toledo back in front with a shorthanded goal 8:58 into the second stanza. Taking a pass from Greg Wolfe at the top of the left circle, Obuchowski showed remarkable patience as he worked his way around a charging Garteig and buried a sharp-angle shot before Matt Bradley could intervene with his right leg.
Toledo added to its lead at even strength 1:36 later, prompting Newfoundland to burn its timeout. Matt Register held in a weak clearing attempt at the left point, and threw a diagonal pass to Jenks at the lower part of the right circle for a quick shot underneath Garteig. The goal marked Jenks’ 27th career Kelly Cup Playoff tally in a Walleye uniform, matching the franchise record held by Kyle Bonis.
Newfoundland closed the gap to 3-2 with 7:10 left in the middle period, as Zach O’Brien skated into the high slot and placed a sharp wrist shot into the top left corner.
Although Newfoundland nearly evened the score early in the third frame when Power’s point shot deflected off the inside of the left post, the Walleye held the Growlers to just seven shots during the final 20 minutes and held on to ensure that the series will be decided at Mile One Centre.
The Growlers finished 0-for-5 on the power play, while the Walleye were unable to score on four opportunities. Nagle stopped 28-of-30 shots to earn third-star honors, as Garteig blocked 22-of-25 in a losing cause.
Three Stars:1. Toledo – A.J. Jenks (game-winning goal)2. Toledo – Tyler Spezia (goal, assist)3. Toledo – Pat Nagle (W, 28 saves)