ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Kelly Cup final round got underway Saturday night in St. John’s, Newfoundland, between the Newfoundland Growlers and Toledo Walleye. It was the first meeting between the two teams, both in the 2018-19 season and all of hockey history.
Game one featured the expected goaltending matchup of Newfoundland’s Michael Garteig and Toledo’s Pat Nagle. Both have played in every postseason game for their respective teams.
Though both teams had some grade-A chances in the opening frame, neither team was able to capitalize until the final second. Growlers forward Hudson Elynuik circled around the Walleye net and attempted a pass to Josh Kestner standing in front. Kestner was taken down by Toledo forward Chris Crane, and the puck floated to Zach O’Brien, who blasted it past Nagle with less than a second remaining on the clock. That goal put O’Brien in sole possession of the postseason lead in goals scored.
The Growlers extended their lead just under the halfway mark of the second period. Kestner stole the puck behind the Toledo net and put it in front for Elynuik to fire it home. Neither team was able to score in the remainder of the second, and the Walleye found themselves trailing by two heading into the third period.
The Growlers weren’t done yet. Just 81 seconds into the third, Kestner skated down the ice to score Newfoundland’s third straight.
Toledo answered back just over five minutes later. Matt Register sent Crane into the Growlers zone, and his shot beat Garteig to break his shutout bid.
Just over two minutes later, the Walleye scored again to bring themselves to within one. With Elynuik in the penalty box for hooking, Greg Wolfe and Shane Berschbach skated down the ice, trading passes until Berschbach was able to put a quality shot on net to beat Garteig.
Toledo didn’t let up, putting more pressure on Newfoundland. The Growlers did a good job of blocking the ensuing shots, until a shot by Wolfe finally got past the bodies in front, and past Garteig as well. The Walleye had scored three consecutive goals to tie the game. Neither team was able to put another on the board in the third period, and they needed overtime to determine the victor.
Less than five minutes into the extra session, Elynuik sent Kestner flying into the Toledo zone, and the speedy forward beat Nagle glove-side to end the game 4-3.
Newfoundland’s Kestner ended the night with two goals and an assist, while Elynuik contributed a goal and two assists. For Toledo, Wolfe picked up a goal and assist, and Register added two helpers.
Of the five overtime games the Growlers have been involved in during the postseason, they have only lost one, a 2-1 loss to the Manchester Monarchs in game five of the North Division finals. The Walleye have lost all three of their games decided in overtime.
Game two takes place later today in St. John’s. Toledo will be battling to tie up the series before heading to the Huntington Center for games three, four, and five (if necessary).