TULSA, Okla. – For the second postseason in a row, a game seven was needed to determine a series winner in the Western Conference Final. Coming from the BOK Center on Wednesday night, the Tulsa Oilers and Toledo Walleye met one last time to find out which team would go on to face the Newfoundland Growlers in the championship round. Facing storm cells and tornado warnings in the area, both teams went on as scheduled for the opportunity to play in the Kelly Cup Final.
Toledo began the game with all sorts of momentum, dominating the first half of the opening period from end-to-end. After outshooting Tulsa 5-1 to start things off, the sixth Walleye shot on net was set up when Shane Berschbach left the puck for A.J. Jenks in the congested Tulsa zone. The pass didn’t get all the way to Jenks, as he had to stretch out in order to set up David Pope on the right wing doorstep of Tulsa goaltender Ian Keserich. Pope quickly hammered the puck into the net, putting Toledo on the scoreboard first at 4:10.
The Walleye continued pushing into Tulsa’s zone after their initial strike. As defenseman Trevor Hamilton sauced the puck over the blue line and into Tulsa territory, one Tulsa defender managed to deflect said dump in. The redirection was corralled by forward Zach Gallant, who gained possession in front of Keserich before backhanding an attempt. Keserich frantically searched for the puck as Gallant stuck with it on the rebound, forehanding a shot five-hole at 9:29 to give Toledo a 2-0 lead.
Tulsa drew the first power play of the game at 11:35 of the first period, after Toledo defenseman Matt Register slashed the stick out of the hands of Oilers forward Ryan Tesink. On the resulting man advantage, Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach found a wide open Stephen Perfetto on the right wing side, who capitalized on a one-timer at 12:24 to pull the Oilers to within one. The power play tally was Perfetto’s ninth of the postseason, adding to his league-leading total of 26 postseason points.
Tulsa began to gain more chances on net after Perfetto’s score, but Toledo continued to clamp down on defense and flex its offensive muscle. After the Walleye won a late period faceoff to the left of Keserich, winger Dylan Sadowy had his pass to the middle tipped and sent high. Once back on the ice, power forward Bryan Moore found right winger Chris Crane for a cross-ice tap in and a 3-1 Toledo lead at 17:14 of period one.
In the second segment of play, both teams fought to put one goal a side in their respective nets. Moore found his way onto the stat sheet again for the Walleye, as he left a drop-behind pass to Register at Oilers blue line. The man they call “Reggie” then proceeded to wire a wrister through traffic and into Tulsa’s cage to put Toledo up 4-1 at 13:28 of period number two. A last-minute backhand to forehand, wraparound goal by Oilers forward Jared Thomas cut Toledo’s lead to two yet again before second intermission.
In the third period. Tulsa played just like a team would with its season on the line. The Oilers put six shots on goal in the first six minutes of play before the Walleye gained their first attempt on net at 9:48. Gameplay was even keel until the waning moments of regulation, as Tulsa Head Coach Rob Murray called timeout with 2:15 to play and sit Keserich for an extra skater. The resulting empty net yielded two Toledo goals, as both Moore and Sadowy sent pucks into the open goal before the final horn sounded. The Walleye earned the win by a score of 6-2, taking a well deserved victory into the fourth and final round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
After appearing in their third conference final in five seasons, the Toledo Walleye will now head to the championship round for the first time in their ten-year existence. Game one of the 2019 Kelly Cup Final will be held in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Saturday, May 25 at 7:00pm NT. The standard 2-3-2 game format will be in place for the final series, with home-ice advantage going to the Growlers based on their regular season record.
The Sin Bin has you covered for postseason minor league hockey! Follow Carrie Roberts (@SinBinADK) and C.C. Hawkley (@SinBinWalleye) for the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Final, and stayed tuned to Samantha Hoffmann (@SinBinWolves) and Cameron Turner (@SinBinStars) for all things AHL leading up to the Calder Cup Final!