TULSA, Okla. – On Saturday afternoon, severe weather pounded Tulsa County with both heavy rain and strong winds, creating conditions that were volatile enough to garner tornado warnings. Meanwhile, at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, the hometown Oilers were preparing to do battle against the visiting Toledo Walleye in a crucial game five matchup. The victor would inch themselves one game closer to the 2019 Kelly Cup Final. The loser would face the uphill climb of winning two games between two cities in order to move on to round number four.
The Walleye proceeded to bring the storm inside to the Oilers, as spread out scoring through all three periods helped lead Toledo to a 4-1 victory, taking a 3-2 series lead and a chance to clinch their first Kelly Cup Final berth in franchise history on Monday, May 20.
The Oilers drew first blood on their second power play of the evening, halfway through the first period. The minor call came when Tulsa forward Adam Pleskach was knocked into the bench by Toledo forward Dylan Sadowy, a cross checking penalty at 9:20 of the first. The Tulsa captain then proceeded to put the puck in net 23 seconds later, netting the power play goal off a deflection in front at 9:43. Toledo responded in short order, however, as Shane Berschbach faked a pass to David Pope before going five-hole on Tulsa netminder Devin Williams to even the score, 1-1, at 11:52 of the first.
Tulsa went on their third power play of the night late in the beginning frame. Half a minute into the Toledo’s penalty kill, Walleye forward Ben Storm caused a turnover in the neutral zone, bullying his way into Tulsa’s zone with a defender in tow. Storm then centered the puck to teammate A.J. Jenks, who deked in front of Williams to net the special teams goal at 17:38, giving the Walleye a 2-1 goal advantage and their first lead of the game.
Only one goal occurred in the confines of period number two, coming from Toledo speedster Tyler Spezia. As Sadowy jumped out of the penalty box following a four-minute double minor, he received the puck and advanced into Tulsa territory. He then found a streaking Spezia up the middle, who went forehand to backhand to score the Walleye’s third unanswered goal of the night at 10:28 of the second.
With their backs against the wall in the final regulation frame, the Oilers did their best to get within one goal against Walleye netminder Pat Nagle. However, the Bloomfield, Michigan native did not waver, stopping all 12 shots sent his way by Tulsa in the third period. Toledo added an empty netter on a give-and-go between Bryan Moore and Berschbach, with the latter scoring Walleye goal number four (and his second of the night) at 19:53 of the third.
TULSA TENDY TROUBLES
Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams, who left game one after two periods of play with a presumed injury, went down again after the second Toledo goal late in period one. After a few tense moments, Williams reached his skates and spoke with the trainer. Backup netminder Ian Keserich was then brought in to relieve the ailing Williams. As was the case last Friday in relief, Keserich held down the net well in lieu of Williams’ departure, stopping 19 of 20 shots faced through 40 plus minutes of play.
A total of twelve minor penalties were called between Tulsa and Toledo Saturday night. The Walleye bared the brunt of the calls, being whistled eight times over the span of 47:19 in regulation gameplay. Aside from the empty net goal, three of the four other game goals came on special teams chances. The Pleskach and Spezia tallies were power play goals for Tulsa and Toledo, respectively, while Berschbach’s first goal of the game came while the Walleye were shorthanded.
DECISIVE GAME SIX
The series now bounces back to Toledo for game six, as previously scheduled Tulsa high school graduations at the BOK Center forced the series to take an odd 2-3-1-1 format. The Walleye will have the opportunity to clinch the Western Conference Final with a win Monday night, in what would be their first ECHL championship appearance as a franchise since winning the Riley Cup under the Toledo Storm moniker in 1994. Puck drops at the Huntington Center at 7:35pm ET.