ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Another night, another rookie stepping up big for the Newfoundland Growlers. In game one, the dogs withstood an overtime-forcing rally from the Toledo Walleye and came out on top in game one, thanks in large part to rookie Josh Kestner‘s overtime tally.
On the other side, the Walleye were looking to even up the series Sunday before heading home to Ohio for games three, four, and five (if needed) this coming week.
Like Saturday, Sunday featured a goaltending duel between Newfoundland’s Michael Garteig and Toledo’s Pat Nagle. The two combined for 64 saves in game one, with both men making several spectacular saves throughout the game. Game two was no different. Garteig faced considerably fewer shots (only 23,) but still came up big for his team when needed. Nagle, faced with 37 shots on goal, also made some impressive saves in Sunday’s contest.
The goalies held their opponents scoreless in the opening frame. The Walleye got on the board first with a power play goal from Shane Berschbach at 3:34 of the second period. Matt Register got the play started from the blue line, as he passed across the ice to Dylan Sadowy. Sadowy passed up to A.J. Jenks next to the Newfoundland net. He was able to get the puck over to Berschbach, who got it past Garteig stick-side.
Neither team scored in the remainder of the second, and Toledo headed into the third period with a 1-0 lead, but in the midst of a five-minute penalty kill after a match penalty was assessed to Kevin Tansey for an illegal check to the head on Kestner.
Still on the power play from Tansey’s major, the Growlers were able to tie it up early in the third. Matt Bradley skated behind the Walleye net with the puck before passing it to Scott Pooley in front. Pooley was able to blast it home for the only goal of that period and his first of the night.
For the second consecutive night, Newfoundland and Toledo were headed to overtime. And for the second consecutive night, the game-winner belonged to a Growlers rookie. It was Pooley with his second of the night, scoring on a rebound from Hudson Elynuik‘s shot. Nagle made the initial save on Elynuik, but couldn’t get across the crease in time to stop Pooley, who potted the rebound at 16:51 of the first overtime.
The Walleye can’t catch a break in extra sessions this postseason. Sunday’s loss brings them to 0-for-4 in overtime. The Growlers have won five of their six games that have gone past regulation. The only loss came in game five of the North Division finals against the Manchester Monarchs.
Sunday’s contest was is just the second time in the 31-year history of the ECHL that the first two games of the Final series have gone to overtime, joining the 1994 Riley Cup Finals, when the Toledo Storm defeated Raleigh in each of the first two games on their way to a 4 games to 1 series victory.
Newfoundland now leads the series 2-0. All-time in the ECHL Playoffs, a team has taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series 115 times (includes Toledo and Newfoundland in the Conference Final round). Just 18 teams have rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a series.
The teams will travel to Toledo for games three, four, and five (if needed). The Walleye will need at least two wins on home ice to stay alive. Faceoff for game three of the Kelly Cup Final is Wednesday night at 7:35 pm Eastern time.
The Sin Bin is your one-stop shop for all things regarding postseason minor league hockey! Carrie Roberts (@SinBinADK) and C.C. Hawkley (@SinBinWalleye) will cover the Newfoundland Growlers and Toledo Walleye throughout the 2019 Kelly Cup Final!