Western Conference Finals Preview
Western Conference Finals (Best of Seven)Idaho Steelheads vs. Toledo WalleyeSeries Matchup SheetIdaho has reached the Conference Finals for the fifth time in team history, and the first time since 2013, while Toledo returns to the Conference Finals for its third consecutive postseason after reaching the Kelly Cup Finals in 2019 and 2022. The series pits two high-flying offenses with the Walleye leading the playoffs with 4.88 goals per game and the Steelheads third with 4.09. Both clubs posted nine goals in a game in their second round series, the first time that had happened in the Kelly Cup Playoffs since 2010, while Idaho’s 28 goals against Allen is the most in a five-game series in ECHL postseason history. The Walleye, who have reached the Conference Finals for the fifth time since 2015, are 8-0 in the playoffs, becoming just the third team in Kelly Cup Playoffs history to open the postseason with eight straight wins, joining the 2003 Columbia Inferno and 2011 Alaska Aces. Toledo leads the playoffs on both the power play (15-for-38, 39.5 percent) and the penalty kill (21-for-23, 91.3 percent). Gordie Green is tied for the playoff lead with 14 points (6g-8a) while Trenton Bliss is tied for first among rookies with 12 points (5g-7a). Sebastian Cossa and John Lethemon have split time in goal, with both goaltenders recording four wins. Cossa leads all goalies in the playoffs with a 1.25 goals-against average and is second with a .954 save percentage while Lethemon, the 2022-23 winner of the Nick Vitucci ECHL Goaltender of the Year Award, ranks seventh with a 2.25 goals-against average. Idaho, which set ECHL single-season records with 32 home wins, 58 wins and 119 points, has won eight of its last nine games after dropping the first two games of the Mountain Division Semifinals against Utah. The Steelheads have scored three or more goals in each of their eight wins and have outshot their opponent in 10 of their 11 games. Wade Murphy leads all players in the postseason with nine goals and is tied for the overall lead with 14 points. Owen Headrick, the 2022-23 ECHL Defenseman of the Year, is second among defensemen in the playoffs with 10 points (1g-9a). In goal, Adam Scheel is 8-3 with a 2.84 goals-against average and a save percentage of .904. The winner of the Western Conference Finals receives the Bruce Taylor Trophy. The trophy is named in recognition of Bruce Taylor, who was the founding father of the West Coast Hockey League. In the early 1990s, Taylor purchased teams in Fresno, Reno and Bakersfield and in 1995 joined them with teams in Anchorage, Fairbanks and San Diego to form the West Coast Hockey League. The Taylor Cup was presented to the playoff champion in the WCHL from the league’s inaugural season in 1995-96 until the league ceased operations following the 2002-03 season. Taylor’s ownership in hockey began in 1983 with the purchase of the Burnaby Bluehawks of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and continued with the purchase of the Richmond Sockeyes in the BCJHL and the New Westminster Royals in the BCJHL.Game 1 - Saturday, May 20 at 7:10 p.m. MT at IdahoGame 2 - Sunday, May 21 at 4:10 p.m. MT at IdahoGame 3 - Wednesday, May 24 at 7:15 p.m. ET at ToledoGame 4 - Friday, May 26 at 7:15 p.m. ET at ToledoGame 5 - Saturday, May 27 at 7:15 p.m. ET at Toledo (If Necessary)Game 6 - Tuesday, May 30 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho (If Necessary)Game 7 - Wednesday, May 31 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Idaho (If Necessary)
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