TOLEDO, Ohio – When it comes to a pro hockey team bringing a championship finals game back to Toledo, fans have only had to wait patiently for a quarter of a century.
Might as well have been an eternity.
On Wednesday night, for the first time in 25 years, a Toledo franchise hosted an ECHL championship series matchup with game three of the Kelly Cup Final between the hometown Walleye and visiting Newfoundland Growlers. The rowdy Toledo crowd came out in full force, setting a Huntington Center record with 8,472 in attendance, as the Walleye looked to avoid going down three games to none against a feisty Growlers squad.
After a scoreless first period from both squads, the Growlers opened up scoring on the tail end of a Dylan Sadowy roughing penalty early on in the second frame. Right as the minor infraction expired, Newfoundland forward Derian Plouffe threaded a nifty backhand, between the legs pass to Hudson Elynuik on the left wing. Elynuik then fired a shot passed Toledo netminder Pat Nagle at 4:01 of the second to put the Growlers up, 1-0.
Toledo may have taken over ten minutes to respond to Newfoundland’s first goal, but when they did, the flood gates opened wide for the Walleye. First, forward Zach Gallant tipped in a Ryan Obuchowski shot from the point at 14:05 to tie things up at 1-1. Second, right winger Greg Wolfe netted a high angle shot at 15:38 off an initial Shane Berschbach misfire that careened off the end boards and to Wolfe on the left wing. Third, on a power play opportunity, defenseman Matt Register found a waiting Berschbach on the left wing faceoff dot for a quick wrister and unanswered goal number three from the Walleye at 18:36 of the middle regulation frame.
Wolfe’s goal from above. What. An. Angle.
— Sin Bin Walleye (@SinBinWalleye) May 30, 2019
The third period brought with it the only frame Newfoundland outshot Toledo regarding shots on net (nine to six), as the Walleye dominated pucks on goal for the total duration of game three (36 to 18). A sweet forehand-to-backhand tally from Berschbach at 11:32 of the final regulation frame proved to be the back breaker for the Growlers, as Toledo seized game three by a final score of 4-1. Newfoundland now has just a one-game series lead, 2-1, heading into game four Friday night.
LONG TIME COMIN’
The last ECHL finals game played in the Glass City was on April 20, 1994, when the Toledo Storm defeated the Raleigh IceCaps 4-3 in overtime of game two in the Riley Cup Finals. The Riley Cup was the old East Coast Hockey League championship trophy before the Kelly Cup was introduced in 1997. To commemorate the occasion, Walleye alumni Cody Lampl and Storm legend Rick Judson both participated in the ceremonial puck drop after both the Canadian and American national anthems had been sung.
NO FURTHER PUNISHMENT
Walleye defenseman Kevin Tansey received no further discipline from the league after receiving a five-minute match penalty for an illegal check to the head on Newfoundland forward Josh Kestner at 18:47 of the second period in game two this past Sunday. Kestner seemingly lost his balance while skating into Toledo’s zone, falling head first into Tansey’s shoulder. Kestner was knocked unconscious by the impact, and had to be stretchered out of the arena following the collision. Tansey didn’t seem to use any forward motion with his left arm or shoulder, as detailed in the video clip below.
Whoa. Talk about a dirty hit from Kevin Tansey. Toledo is up 1-0 but this is an important player (John Kestner) down for a long time and coming off on stretcher at Newfoundland. From: ECHL TV/Growlers. pic.twitter.com/TY80pr933Y
— Justin A. Cohn (@SportsiCohn) May 26, 2019
HUNTER, OR THE PREY?
Toledo forward Hunter Smith made his professional playoff debut on home ice Wednesday night. Smith was called into action after Toledo placed forward Jordan Topping on reserve following an uneventful game two in St. John’s on May 26. Topping himself was activated from reserve after rookie forward David Pope was injured in game one on May 25. According to Walleye Head Coach Dan Watson, Pope remains day-to-day in regards to his return. Smith’s only official stat on the evening was a minus-one rating in the Walleye win.
As previously mentioned, game four of the Kelly Cup Final will take place Friday night at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo. The Sin Bin’s Samantha Hoffman and Sarah Hobday will be LIVE at the arena for all your ECHL championship round coverage in games four and five! Follow the dynamic duo on Twitter (@SinBinNews and @Sarah_Hobday) for live tweets and photos from The Glass City!