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2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs

Grizzlies Stun Walleye in Game One Overtime Victory

Grizzlies Stun Walleye in Game One Overtime Victory

TOLEDO, Ohio — After a controversial hooking call 7:55 into overtime, Charle-Edouard D’Astous and the Utah Grizzlies emerged victorious over the Toledo Walleye in game one of the ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference Final on Friday night. After a back-and-forth battle that saw every period end in a tie, it looked like a potentially multi-overtime game. However, hockey is all about capitalizing on chances. Utah did just that on their way to a 5-4 victory on the road in this best-of-seven series.

First Period

Both the Walleye and Grizzlies came into this game well-rested. After sweeping the Wheeling Nailers in the second round, Toledo enjoyed an eight-day break. Meanwhile, Utah’s defeat of the Rapid City Rush this past Monday awarded them a brief respite before traveling to Ohio to kick off this series.

The hometown Walleye crowd was on the Grizzlies early with chants and noise, not making it easy to settle in. However, both teams took a while to settle into this game. You could absolutely tell that these teams do not know each out. In fact, this is the first time these two have met since December 2016. Though, as in typical fashion, the hits started coming a few minutes later.

If generating chances was a stat, Brett Boeing for Toledo and Benjamin Tardif for Utah would’ve been the leaders in the first. They had so many chances, but not many official shots got on the scoresheet to show for it. Everything seemed to go wide or ricochet off a body before reaching a goaltender. Though the first real high-danger chance came courtesy of Dakota Raabe off a wraparound attempt on Walleye netminder Billy Christopoulos, but Raabe got slightly tangled with the goalie on the effort, which was probably why the shot couldn’t get off.

Toledo had started to build some momentum, but Tyler Penner’s goal 10:23 into the game sucked all of the spirit and noise out of the Huntington Center. Raabe raced to the puck, gained possession, and fed it to Nate Clurman. Clurman then sent a bombing shot from the blue line to Penner, who was ready for the tip in.

D’Astous had his first Grade-A chance in the dying minutes with a bombing shot, but luckily for Toledo, it landed with a loud clap into the boards just wide of Christopoulos.

Toledo would put together their answer with less than a minute left in the period. Randy Gazzola tallied his first of the postseason off a cross-ice feed from Chris Martenet, beating Trent Miner for the tying goal.

During intermission, Gazzola was asked about the goal and what he saw as it unfolded:

“Traffic, traffic, traffic. So, I called for it from Marty (Marenet) here. I had seen Marcus (Marcus Vela) go to the net and I said, You know what, I’m going to skip this one. I’ve scored a couple goals like that throughout my career where you know, you have guys go into the net. My heads up, I can make those make those shots and place them. Kudos to the guys going to the net and I think that’s how we’re gonna have success in the in the series.” – Gazzola

Afterward, in a funny moment, Gazzola called for the standard fish that’s thrown onto the ice, but it ended up being not what he expected:

“I knew the fish came there, and I think it would fire the fans up. But I saw the one guy come with a big fish and then I was just like, oh my god, that one’s big. So, I saw this other one come out of nowhere. I’m just like, you know what, I’ll, I’ll try to catch it. Marcus kind of got in my way. So sorry.” – Gazzola

That sent the teams to the locker rooms knotted at one with plenty of scoring left in them.

Second Period

Utah came out in the second with a fire in their belly, quickly getting two shots on net. In response, Toledo was cool and collected. Despite the differences in style, both started racking up quality chances, with the standard Toledo duo of TJ Hensick and Brandon Hawkins teaming up for multiple opportunities.

One of those would eventually find its home in the back of the net. Hawkins scored his team-high 10th of the playoffs on a high blocker side shot 4:16 into the period.

That goal set off a flurry of activity both on the ice and in the stands for the Walleye. Whatever rust they had was cleaned and cleared off, but Utah’s youth-filled roster matched them almost stride for stride.

In fact, Utah tied this back up less than 6 minutes later. Tardiff finally found the back of the net, lifting the puck over Christopoulos’ pad on a wraparound.

Perhaps the most surprising stat on the night is that it took 33:17 for the first penalty to be called. That dishonor was given to Nick Henry for tripping. However, Toledo was held off the scoresheet for all but 3 seconds of the power play. Though, they were buzzing the entire two minutes, sending in shots from point-blank range on Miner. One shot even bounced off the outside of the net, fooling the fans into thinking their team had scored.

Then, Brett McKenzie lobbed the puck on net, which somehow sneaked past Miner for the 3-2 tally.

Just barely a minute later, Toledo found themselves on a delayed penalty call. Scrambling to touch up, some Grizzlies skaters were left undefended. Kyle Pouncy, for lack of a better word, pounced on the opportunity, getting the equalizer at 16:35.

Headed into the second intermission, Toledo held the shot advantage 24-19. However, Miner was outstanding, keeping his skaters in this game.

Third Period

It would’ve been far too easy for the wheels to come off in the third. In fact, it came close to happening several times for both teams, but somehow, this game remained close the entire way.

The action started with a brutal collision in the corner after Cam Clarke lost an edge after getting tangled up with Utah’s Henry, who followed him to the ice. After laying on the ice for a short time, Clarke returned to the bench, while Henry was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Luckily, later in the man-advantage, Clarke was able to return to the ice, seemingly no worse for wear. Shortly after, though, Josh Dickinson was called for holding, ending the Toledo power play.

D’Astous started waking up in the third, sending in plenty of opportunities. It seemed like a goal would eventually go his way, but he had to wait for it.

Instead, an odd-man rush, which Utah had plenty of on Friday night, resulted in a Dylan Fitze go-ahead goal, with Connor McDonald getting the assist.

As the night wore on, Miner started looking looser, leaving vast areas of his net open. He was a little slower on the cross-crease stretch, but his defenders bailed him out, clogging up the shooting lanes and forcing turnovers.

After a Clurman hooking call at 9:14 of the third, Toledo unleashed a barrage of shots on the defensive Grizzlies. 3:30 worth of pressure against a tired PK unit later, Toledo finally gave up possession without hitting the scoresheet.

Though, McKenzie wasn’t satisfied and would soon get his second of the night- a pure rocket off a bobbled toe drag by Vela.

That would end the scoring in regulation, though Hensick almost had the game-deciding goal with only 31 seconds remaining. A clapper from the blue line sailed in on Miner, who made the pad save with no rebound.

Overtime

Utah had a stranglehold on overtime. Just 10 seconds in, Trey Bradley tallied the first shot. From there on, the Grizzlies gummed up Toledo through the neutral zone, forcing them to use stretch passes to get anywhere near Miner. Both Blake Hillman and Hensick had multiple scoring chances, but Miner swooped up each one effortlessly.

Christopoulos was equally outstanding early on in the extra period. He made multiple game-saving blocks, including two back-to-back stick and snapping glove saves 6:30 into overtime.

But, sometimes fate has another idea for your team. On this night, fortune smiled upon the visiting Grizzlies. The referees called Dickinson for hooking at 7:55. That sent the crowd and the Toledo bench into an angry fury, as they viewed the call as late and influenced by the Utah bench.

On that power play, D’Astous scored his 18th goal of the playoffs, clinching a new ECHL Kelly Cup single-season record.

Boos and other anti-officials language rained down from the crowd, with the Walleye bench clearly incensed about the call that led to the game-deciding goal. But, a goal is a goal, and Utah claimed game one of the best-of-seven series.

Quote of the Game

Postgame, Toledo head coach Dan Watson was asked about the overtime penalty call:

“Yeah, their bench called it. You know, there’s a delay. He (the official) had no business calling that and their bench called it for him. You know, it’s one of those things, they their whole bench erupts. And he waits a second to make the call. If you thought it’s a penalty that arm should’ve been up right away. This is very, very disappointing.” – Watson

Thoughts

Utah looked sharp from the get-go, despite the crowd’s best efforts. Toledo had been first-period experts all postseason, outscoring their opponents 16-7. So, it’s safe to say most of us expected more out of Toledo this period. Was it just a side effect of the week-plus-long break?

Toledo needs to watch the odd-man rushes. They let Utah get several of them throughout the period. Is this just rust from that long break after sweeping Wheeling in the second round?

Utah clearly has quite the weapon in D’Astous. But, if they want to continue to win, they need to keep him open and healthy.

Up Next

It’s a short break for both teams as they face off again Saturday night at Huntington Center in Toledo. Puck drop is at 7:35 pm Eastern.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Deana Weinheimer covers the Cleveland Monsters for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHMonsters.

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