TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye must win three consecutive games in order to claim their first Kelly Cup in franchise history, as the Newfoundland Growlers recorded a 4-2 victory in Friday’s Game 4 to grab a 3-1 series lead in front of a Huntington Center-record crowd of 8,504.
The Walleye, who previously staved off elimination with a 6-2 win at Tulsa in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, look to extend the final round on Saturday when they host the Growlers in Game 5 at a sold-out Huntington Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
Despite failing to find the net on an early power play, Newfoundland started the scoring 8:51 into the contest. Though the Growlers couldn’t cash in on a scramble in front of the crease, Brady Ferguson intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot, turned around and fired a hard wrist shot inside the right post. The Walleye pulled even later in the frame on the tail end of a 5-on-3 lasting 1:37. As the capacity crowd urged the hosts to shoot, Greg Wolfe used his left skate to control a pass from Matt Register at the left circle before snapping a shot through Michael Garteig’s five-hole at the 13:56 mark. With his 10th goal of the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club, Wolfe matched the single-season franchise record set by Kyle Bonis in 2017.
Still deadlocked at 1-1 in the middle period, the Growlers were controversially handed a power play when Garteig initiated contact with Bryan Moore in the blue paint and drew a penalty for goaltender interference at the 9:27 mark. The visitors went back in front 13 seconds later, as Marcus Power centered the puck to the top of the right circle to Giorgio Estephan, who quickly threw a pass to Ferguson at the back door for a tap-in.
Moore bounced back to restore parity with just 25.5 seconds to go in the same stanza. Trevor Hamilton set up Register for a one-timer at the right point that deflected off the stick of Scott Pooley and straight to Moore at the right circle for an impromptu slapshot over a sprawling Garteig.
The Walleye were in prime position to capture their first lead of the night after Josh Kestner was called for tripping 7:48 into the third, but Register’s slapshots were repeatedly absorbed by Derian Plouffe as the game remained tied at two apiece.
Newfoundland restored its one-goal lead with 8:46 remaining in regulation. Estephan spun back to the lower part of the left circle and sent the puck through the slot to Kristians Rubins at the right circle for a wrist shot into an open net.
The visitors iced the game on an insurance goal with 5:34 to play in the third. J.J. Piccinich missed the net with his one-timer from the right circle, but Matt Bradley raced to the right side of the net to bank the carom off the back of Pat Nagle’s left arm and in with 5:34 remaining. The Walleye mounted a late push and yanked Nagle with 2:21 left, but were left frustrated as Newfoundland held on for a 4-2 decision.
Toledo finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while Newfoundland scored on one of its four chances. Garteig stopped 37-of-39 shots in a winning cause, as Nagle turned away 26-of-30.
Three Stars:1. Newfoundland – Kristians Rubins (game-winning goal)2. Newfoundland – Brady Ferguson (two goals)3. Toledo – Matt Register (two assists)