ESTERO, Fla. – It took over 75 minutes of play to decide a winner in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals in Estero, Fla., but the Toledo Walleye did not come away on the winning side as the Florida Everblades earned the 3-2 win at Hertz Arena.
The Walleye came within a minute of tying the series at two games apiece, holding a 2-1 lead late in the third period behind goals from Josh Dickinson and Matt Berry, but Florida sent the contest to overtime with just 20 seconds left in regulation. The Everblades’ game-winning goal came 15:45 into the extra period as Florida took the 3-1 series lead.
The Everblades got the early jump on the Walleye, scoring 8:21 after puck drop to take the lead. Blake Hillman was called for slashing at 7:25, and Jake McLaughlin scored on the resulting power play as Blake Winiecki and Zach Solow assisted.
Brandon Hawkins entered the penalty box for roughing at 9:34, putting Florida on the power play for the second time. This time, the Walleye earned the successful penalty kill to return to full strength.
At 14:44, Josh Dickinson tied the game at one, receiving a TJ Hensick pass right in front of the net for his second goal of the playoffs. Brandon Hawkins also collected an assist to help the Walleye enter the first intermission tied. Florida outshot Toledo, 16-8, in the frame.
In the second period, the Walleye took the advantage, 13-9, in shots as they looked to take the lead. The Walleye collected three straight power play chances in the first five minutes of the frame, starting with Stefan Leblanc picking up a high-sticking minor at 1:18. The Everblades returned to full strength at 3:18, and nine seconds later, Lukas Kaelble was in the box for delay of game.
A penalty for too many men on the ice at 4:28 sent Alex Aleardi to the box, putting Toledo on the 5-on-3 advantage for 59 seconds. The Everblades ultimately returned to full strength unscathed as the game remained tied at one.
At 11:28, the Everblades got a turn on the power play as Butrus Ghafari was called for high-sticking. Florida did not score, and the next 6:32 was played at equal strength.
With one minute remaining in the period, Ghafari picked up another penalty for interference, giving Florida the man advantage as the period expired. Tied at one, the Everblades remained on the power play for the first minute of the third period but could not find the back of the net.
Jordan Sambrook was called for slashing at the 3:55 mark to put Toledo on the power play for the first time in the third period. The Everblades prevented the Fish from scoring, returning to full strength two minutes later.
At 13:48, Marcus Vela and Levko Koper were sent to the penalty boxes for slashing and cross-checking, respectively. Two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey resulted, with both teams coming up empty.
With 16:39 gone, Xavier Bouchard was called for tripping, and the Walleye finally converted as Matt Berry scored from between the circles to give the Fish the lead with 2:34 left in regulation. Brandon Hawkins and TJ Hensick each earned their second assist of the night on Berry’s fourth goal of the playoffs as Toledo took the 2-1 lead.
The Everblades pulled goaltender Cam Johnson to bring on the extra skater twice in the final 1:20, and it paid off for Florida as Joe Pendenza, assisted by Stefan Leblanc and Blake WIniecki, found the back of the net with just 20 seconds left in regulation.
The final 20 seconds of regulation ticked away with the Walleye and Everblades tied at two, sending Game 4 to sudden death overtime. Both teams took 34 shots in regulation.
It took nearly 16 minutes and 21 combined shots in overtime before a winner was crowned. The Walleye had multiple good looks as they looked to secure a win, but Florida ultimately scored the game-winning goal at the 15:45 mark. Lukas Kaelble found the back of the net for the first time in the playoffs from the right circle as Matteo Gennaro and Jordan Sambrook assisted. The Everblades earned the 3-2 victory to take the 3-1 series lead. The Walleye will need three straight victories to win the series.
Florida outshot Toledo, 47-42, during the contest while both teams scored a power play goal. Toledo took the man advantage five times while Florida had four opportunities.
Cam Johnson saved 40-of-42 shots to pick up the win for the Everblades while Billy Christopoulos made a season-high 44 saves on 47 shots in a loss for the Walleye.
The Walleye will look to keep their season alive in Game 5 of the Kelly Cup Finals on Saturday, June 10. The game will mark the final road contest of the season as the Walleye look to send the series back to Toledo for Game 6. Puck drop from Hertz Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.
- Florida – Lukas Kaelble (game-winning goal)
- Florida – Cam Johnson (W, 40 saves)
- Florida – Joe Pendenza (game-tying goal)