Jacksonville Sports Day

RECAP: Kelly Cup Win Over Toledo is Like ‘a dream’ for Newfoundland Growlers

Zach Gallant, left, of the Toledo Walleye skates down the puck in front of James Melindy of the Newfoundland Growlers. (Blade/Kurt Steiss)

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The Newfoundland Growlers captured the 2019 Kelly Cup championship with a 4-3 win over the Toledo Walleye/

The Growlers grabbed a 1-0 lead when they scored a crushing goal with 1:29 left in the first period.

Matt Bradley scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on an assist from Zach O’Brien, who earned the playoff MVP award after leading all players with 16 goals and 29 points.

Josh Kestner scored to give the Growlers a 2-0 lead after a Walleye turnover early in the second.

Toledo trailed 2-0 just 1:03 into the second period when defenseman Kevin Tansey rifled a long shot past Newfoundland goalie Michael Garteig to cut the Growlers’ lead in half.

Shane Berschbach and Randy Gazzola assisted on the goal that made it 2-1.

But Newfoundland responded with two goals from Giorgio Estephan over a span of 3:28 to send the crowd into a roar. That was enough for Garteig, who finished with 23 saves.

Toledo trailed 4-1 early in the third period when Hunter Smith and A.J. Jenks scored consecutive goals to put the capacity crowd of 6,329 on edge.

Jenks’ goal made it 4-3 came with 3:36 left.

“It’s disappointing how it ended,” Jenks said. “But it was a good run. It’s frustrating. It stings. We had a chance to tie it up at the end there and play again tomorrow. It didn’t work out. It was something else. The guys really came together. We had all the ingredients, for sure.”

Newfoundland joined the ECHL as an expansion team prior to the 2018-19 season, becoming the first team to claim a league title in its first season of existence since the Greensboro Monarchs in 1990.

O’Brien led all players in the playoffs with 16 goals and 29 points, winning the June M. Kelly Playoffs Most Valuable Player Award.

His 16 goals are tied for the second most in a single postseason in ECHL history, just one behind the league record of 17, which was set by Richmond’s Blaine Moore in 1995 and matched by Peoria’s J.F. Boutin in 2000.

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