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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Kelly Cup Finals are set to begin between the Newfoundland Growlers and Toledo Walleye. It will be an interesting and exciting matchup between a first-year team (Newfoundland) and a franchise that’s been around for 26 seasons (Toledo). Toledo entered the league in 1991 as the Storm, quickly winning championships in its second and third seasons. A Toledo team has not won the Cup since. As the Walleye (2009-present), the franchise has not made it past the conference finals until now.

Final Regular Season Records

Newfoundland Growlers: 43-21-4-4 (1st in North Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference, 3rd in ECHL)
Toledo Walleye: 40-23-6-3 (2nd in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference, 5th in ECHL)

How They Got Here

Division Semifinals

Newfoundland Growlers: Defeated Brampton Beast, 4-2
Toledo Walleye: Defeated Fort Wayne Komets, 4-2

Division Finals

Newfoundland Growlers: Defeated Manchester Monarchs, 4-2
Toledo Walleye: Defeated Cincinnati Cyclones, 4-1

Conference Finals

Newfoundland Growlers: Defeated Florida Everblades, 4-1
Toledo Walleye: Defeated Tulsa Oilers, 4-3

Series Schedule (Home Team in BOLD CAPS and all times local):

Game 1 – Saturday, May 25 – Toledo at NEWFOUNDLAND 7:00 pm NT
Game 2 – Sunday, May 26 – Toledo at NEWFOUNDLAND 7:00 pm NT
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 29 – Newfoundland at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
Game 4 – Friday, May 31 – Newfoundland at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, June 1 – Newfoundland at TOLEDO 7:35 pm ET
*Game 6 – Tuesday, June 4 – Toledo at NEWFOUNDLAND 7:00 pm NT
*Game 7 – Wednesday, June 5 – Toledo at NEWFOUNDLAND 7:00 pm NT
*=>If Necessary

Season Series Recap

The Growlers and Walleye did not face each other in the regular season.

Newfoundland’s Keys to Success

Rely on the rookies. Aside from Zach O’Brien, the vast majority of Newfoundland’s offensive output has come from their rookie forwards. Of the Growlers’ 53 goals in the postseason, 37 have come from rookies; O’Brien added another 14. Four of the league’s top five rookies of the playoffs are Growlers: Brady Ferguson (5G-16A-21Pts), Giorgio Estephan (7G-10A-17Pts), Scott Pooley (7G-7A-14Pts), and Marcus Power (3G-9A-12Pts); Josh Kestner is a close sixth (6G-5A-11Pts).

Go with Garteig. Though not invincible (as shown in an 8-2 loss to the Brampton Beast in round one), goaltender Michael Garteig has carried his team through the first three rounds. He has started every game thus far, posting a 12-4-1 record, 2.07 goals against average, and 0.934 save percentage.

Newfoundland should be well-rested after finishing their Eastern Conference Final with the Florida Everblades on May 18 and playing just five games in that series. The Growlers played their last three games at home, and will begin the Kelly Cup final at home. Toledo and Tulsa went the full seven games, closing out the Western Conference Final Wednesday in Tulsa. The Walleye then had to travel to Newfoundland to begin the final round on Saturday. The Growlers need to take advantage of the Walleye’s fatigue and get an early lead in the series.

Toledo’s Keys to Success

Keep playing like it’s game seven. Toledo clamped down defensively on the Tulsa Oilers in their final game of the Western Conference Final (May 22), allowing only two Tulsa tallies in a convincing 6-2 series-clinching victory. Led by plus-minus dynamo Kevin Tansey, the Walleye defensive corps also needs to rely on grit from skaters like Brenden Kotyk to combat the toughness of Growlers captain James Melindy. Agitating forwards Bryan Moore and Ben Storm should help stir the pot, as well.

Just keep scoring…and do it first. Toledo leads all teams this postseason with 3.30 goals for per game. The Walleye also are 8-0-2 in playoff games this year when scoring first. They’ve spread the wealth around, too, as nine players boast double-digit point totals in the postseason. With Pat Nagle holding down the fort in net (12-4-2, 1.79 GAA, .940 SV%), Toledo just needs to give the man they call “Patty Nags” some scoring support to stand a chance against the offensive wunderkinds on Newfoundland.

Make use of the time change. Newfoundland Daylight Time is an hour and a half ahead of the Eastern Time Zone (where Toledo plays its home games). If either of the first two games go to extra time, the Growlers may get fatigued slightly faster than the Walleye. This could give a small edge to Toledo, playing with their body clocks set an hour and a half earlier than their Canadian counterparts.

C.C. Hawkley helped contribute to this series preview. Follow Carrie (@SinBinADK) and C.C. (@SinBinWalleye) on Twitter for Kelly Cup Finals coverage!

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