TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye fell to the Florida Everblades, 3-1, in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals on Saturday night.
Florida scored 3:30 into the contest and never looked back, taking a 3-0 lead in the second period. Marcus Vela scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in the third period, but the Walleye could not claw back to force overtime. With the loss, the Walleye now trail, 2-0, ahead of the road portion of the series, which will begin on Wednesday in Florida.
The Walleye started out the game on the penalty kill after Blake Hillman collected a double minor for high-sticking 18 seconds after puck drop. The Walleye got a good look at a shorthanded goal less than a minute in, but a Toledo goal was waved off after review, keeping the contest scoreless.
With 2:13 gone, John McCarron was called for tripping, offsetting Hillman’s penalty to begin nearly two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. At the 3:30 mark, the Everblades scored their first goal as Levko Koper redirected a Xavier Bouchard shot into the back left corner of the net. Dylan Vander Esch added a secondary assist as the Everblades took the 1-0 lead.
The Walleye went on the power play for the first time at 11:01 following a Jake Jaremko holding penalty, but it was Florida who came away with a goal, scoring shorthanded at the 12:19 mark. Joe Pendenza stole the puck near the right edge of the logo and passed ahead to Vander Esch for the score.
The second period featured multiple scuffles, including a fight at 11:26 between center ice and the Walleye bench that resulted in five penalties. Florida’s Xavier Bouchard and Jake McLaughlin, as well as Toledo’s Butrus Ghafari and Randy Gazzola, were all called for roughing, while Gazzola also picked up a cross-checking minor. Those penalties resulted in another Florida power play, which the Walleye killed off.
The Everblades took the man advantage one more time in the period as Brett Boeing entered the box for slashing. That penalty occurred at 15:28, and at 15:52, Zach Solow found the back of the net to give the Everblades a three-goal lead. Stefan Leblanc and Jake Jaremko added helpers.
The Walleye dominated the shooting in the third period, 15-5, as they looked to get back in the game. Toledo earned a successful penalty kill early in the frame, returning to full strength at 7:12 after Butrus Ghafari’s charging minor.
At 8:46, Marcus Vela put the Walleye on the board, deflecting Blake Hillman’s shot into the net to trim the Florida lead back to two. Hillman and Cam Clarke were credited with the assists as Vela scored his fourth goal of the playoffs.
The Walleye earned two opportunities to score with the man advantage following the first goal. At 11:22, Blake Winiecki was called for delay of game to put Toledo on the power play, and after the Everblades returned to full strength, Alex Aleardi picked up a tripping minor at 16:07 to give the Walleye another chance. The Walleye could not convert on the man advantage and found themselves searching for two goals to force overtime with 1:53 to play.
With 1:05 left in regulation, the Walleye brought on the extra skater to try to score a quick goal, but the Everblades held the Fish without another shot, handing Toledo the 3-1 loss. The Everblades took the 2-0 series lead, stealing two games on the road before the series shifts to Florida next week.
The Walleye outshot the Everblades, 30-21, in the contest, with 15 of those shots coming in the third period. Florida went on the power play five times while Toledo took the man advantage three times. The Everblades scored the lone power play of the game late in the second period.
Cam Johnson earned the 29-save victory for the Everblades, only giving up one shot. Billy Christopoulos recorded the loss for the Walleye, saving 18-of-21 shots.
The Walleye will travel to Florida to take on the Everblades in Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Finals on Wednesday, June 8. Toledo, currently trailing, 2-0, will look to collect its first win of the series on the road in Estero. Puck drop from Hertz Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.
- Florida – Dylan Vander Esch (game-winning shorthanded goal, assist)
- Florida – Levko Koper (goal)
- Toledo – Marcus Vela (goal)