TOLEDO, Ohio – With a capacity crowd of 7,519 souls at the Huntington Center on Sunday night, the Toledo Walleye looked to take game two of the Western Conference Final in just as convincing of a fashion as they did game one (a 6-2 victory on Friday). And while they may not have put up six goals like they did two days ago, the Walleye definitely didn’t sit back and rest on their laurels, either.
All three forward lines and two defensive pairings chipped in on points for Toledo on Sunday, as two first period and two second period goals served as more than enough for the Walleye to win against the Tulsa Oilers, 4-1. Forwards David Pope and Chris Crane were responsible for late first period scores, while centermen A.J. Jenks and Greg Wolfe netted two tallies in the second regulation segment. Tulsa forward Charlie Sampair scored the lone goal for the Oilers, deflecting in an Erik Drapluk shot from the blue line. The odd bounce got by Toledo goaltender Pat Nagle at 11:31 of the third period.
Both teams were evenly matched in the beginning, with each side netting five shots on goal just twelve minutes in. Toledo then surged ahead with five straight shots on net, the tenth coming from a rush into Tulsa’s zone. Walleye defenseman Matt Register passed to Pope as the Walleye pushed past the Oilers’ blue line, with Pope returning the puck seconds later. Register then found a driving Jenks on the left side of Tulsa netminder Evan Fitzpatrick, who completed the tic-tac-toe sequence to an awaiting Pope for a shot into the yawning cage at 14:16 of the opening frame.
Toledo rolled on with their first-goal momentum. A minute and a half later, Tulsa d-man Chris Forney attempted to clear the puck from behind the Oilers net. Toledo’s Crane easily intercepted the puck between the faceoff circles, hesitating momentarily before wristing the puck passed Fitzpatrick for a 2-0 Walleye lead at 15:39 of the first.
After what appeared to be a run at Nagle from Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach in the second period, Toledo defender Brenden Kotyk came to his goalie’s defense by knocking Pleskach’s stick away and cross checking him for his troubles. Then, the Walleye just kept scoring. Register facilitated a pass to a wide open Shane Berschbach on the left wing, who then found Jenks in front for a tap-in goal (his third of the playoffs) at 12:37 of the second. Exactly seven minutes later, Toledo d-man Kevin Tansey put a shot from the right wing onto Fitzpatrick. The puck dribbled past the St. John’s, Newfoundland native and towards the goal line before Wolfe dove and smacked the puck in at 19:37 to put Toledo up, 4-0.
The Oilers received the aforementioned goal from Sampair midway through the third period, but couldn’t muster a comeback after 15 shots on net in the final frame. Toledo’s Nagle stopped 39 of 40 shots faced, good for a .975 save percentage on the evening. Register had two assists to his name after being held pointless in game one of the series.
FITZ AND THE TENDYS
Tulsa goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick got the start for the Oilers in game two, seemingly after netminder Devin Williams went down with an injury late in game one. Since Tulsa kept three goaltenders on their roster for the postseason, Fitzpatrick and Oilers cult hero Ian Keserich were the rostered netminders for game two. Unofficial reports tell of Williams suffering from dehydration, which more than likely led to him being scratched Sunday night.
To start the third period in game two, Tulsa Head Coach Rob Murray replaced Fitzpatrick in net with Keserich. The Ohio State Buckeye last played a full, professional goaltending schedule in 2012-13, with time spent between then-CHL Tulsa and the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. He didn’t play in his next pro game until filling in as an EBUG for Tulsa on February 18, 2018. And, with both Williams and Fitzpatrick called up to AHL San Antonio at various times this year, Keserich played in 15 games during the 2018-19 regular season. He went 9-3-0 with a 2.27 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Keserich also did very admirably in relief Sunday night as well, stopping all eight Walleye shots he faced in the third.
SERIES SHIFTS TO TULSA
Games three, four, and possibly five of the Western Conference Final now head to the BOK Center in Tulsa. The games fall on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (May 15, 17, and 18) this coming week, with each match beginning at 7:05pm CT. Tulsa will look to take at least two of three games at home to force a game six back in Toledo (tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 20 at 7:35pm ET).