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2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs

Kelly Cup Playoff Western Conference Final Preview: Toledo Walleye vs. Utah Grizzlies

Kelly Cup Playoff Western Conference Final Preview: Toledo Walleye vs. Utah Grizzlies

TOLEDO, OH- The Utah Grizzlies have advanced to face the Toledo Walleye in the Western Conference Final.

After beating the Cincinnati Cyclones in a hard-fought seven-game series in the Central Division semifinals, the Walleye swept the Wheeling Nailers in four games to win the Central Division crown. This will be the Walleye’s fourth trip to the conference finals since 2015. Toledo is led this playoff year by Brandon Hawkins, who has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points, good for third in the ECHL. TJ Hensick leads the Walleye in assists with ten, along with seven goals, for 17 total points. John Albert leads the ECHL with four game-winning goals. Goaltender Billy Christopoulos has played every minute for Toledo and has an 8-2-1 record, with a 2.12 GAA and 0.924 SVP. 

The Utah Grizzlies come into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2008, when current first-year head coach Ryan Kinasewich was a player for the team. The Grizzlies won their series against the Tulsa Oilers in seven games, and then went on to defeat the Rapid City Rush in six. The Grizzlies are led by ECHL Defenseman of the Year Charle-Edouard D’Astous, who is breaking records in the playoffs.  Those include most goals by a defenseman in the playoffs (17) and most power play goals in the playoffs (10).  D’Astous and teammate Benjamin Tardif are tied for the league lead in points this postseason with 26 each.

Final Regular Season Records

Toledo Walleye: 49-19-2-2, 102 points, .708 winning percentage (1st in Central Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Utah Grizzlies: 42-27-2-1, 87 points, .604 winning percentage (1st in Mountain Division, 3rd in Western Conference)

How They Got Here

Toledo defeated the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-3 in the Central Division semifinals and swept the Wheeling Nailers 4-0 in the Central Division Final.
Utah defeated the Tulsa Oilers 4-3 in the Mountain Division semifinals and the Rapid City Rush 4-2 in the Mountain Division Final.

Series Schedule

Game 1 – Friday, May 20 – Utah at TOLEDO – 7:35 pm ET
Game 2 – Saturday, May 21 – Utah at TOLEDO – 7:35 pm ET
Game 3 – Tuesday, May 24 – Toledo at UTAH – 7:10 pm MT
Game 4 – Friday, May 27 – Toledo at UTAH – 7:10 pm MT
Game 5 (if needed) – Saturday, May 28 – Toledo at UTAH – 7:10 pm MT
Game 6 (if needed) – Monday, May 30 – Utah at TOLEDO – 7:35 pm ET
Game 7 (if needed) – Tuesday, May 31 – Utah at TOLEDO – 7:35 pm ET

Season Series Recap

The Utah Grizzlies and Toledo Walleye did not meet during the regular season.

How Toledo Wins:

Toledo wins this series by continuing to do what they do best, and that is score in waves. Toledo leads all teams in the postseason with 3.55 goals per game. The top line of Hensick, Hawkins, and Marcus Vela must continue to score in the postseason. While Toledo is good on the power play, their penalty kill has to be good as well, as the Grizzlies have the best power play in the postseason (35.8%). Toledo must also continue to play defense as well as they have so far this postseason, allowing only 2.18 goals against per game, tops in the ECHL. The first period has also been a key to the Walleye’s success as they have outscored opponents 16-7 in the opening frame. 

How Utah wins:

The Grizzlies need the offensive firepower of guys like D’Astous, Tardif, and Trey Bradley, but they can win this series if they can keep their transition game steady. The Grizzlies are a team that can score in waves, but they can also let up goals in waves.  They need their defensive game on point just as much as their offense against a team like Toledo.  In net, Trent Miner has been the go-to guy for Utah, going 6-3 with a 0.934 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average.  Miner will likely get most, if not all, of the starts in the series.

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    Elijah Webb covers the Utah Grizzlies for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHGrizzlies.

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