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Western Conference Finals Preview

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Toledo Walleye vs. Utah Grizzlies
Series Matchup Sheet


Toledo returns to the Conference Finals for the second consecutive postseason after reaching the Kelly Cup Finals in 2019, while Utah has advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2008.
 
The Walleye, who have reached the Conference Finals for the fourth time since 2015, defeated Cincinnati 4 games to 3 in the Central Division Semifinals before eliminating Wheeling 4 games to 0 in the Central Division Finals. Toledo ranks third in the postseason in both goals per game (3.55) and goals-against per game (2.18), and has gotten off to quick starts, outscoring its opponents 16-7 in the first period.
 
Brandon Hawkins, who was part of Fort Wayne’s Kelly Cup championship team last season, paces Toledo in the playoffs with nine goals - which are tied for third in the postseason through two rounds - and 18 points. John Albert has scored the game-winning goal in four of the Walleye’s eight playoff wins. Billy Christopoulos has played each of Toledo’s 11 games in goal, going 8-3 while ranking fourth with a 2.12 goals-against average and eighth with a .924 save percentage.
 
Utah, which captured its first-ever ECHL regular-season division title, has reached the third round following a 4 games to 3 win over Tulsa in the Mountain Division Semifinals and a 4 games to 2 victory over Rapid City in the Mountain Division Finals. The Grizzlies feature the top power-play unit in the playoffs, converting at 35.8 percent (19-for-53) through two rounds. Utah is second with 4.00 goals per game, and has outscored its opposition 23-8 in the third period during the playoffs.
 
It has been a record-breaking playoff run so far for Charle-Edouard D’Astous, who was named the 2021-22 ECHL Defenseman of the Year. D’Astous has scored 17 goals, which is tied for the most in a single postseason in ECHL history, and 10 power-play goals, which is a new postseason record. D’Astous is tied with teammate Benjamin Tardif (4g-22a), who earned a spot on the ECHL All-Rookie Team, for the playoff lead with 26 points each. In goal, Trent Miner has gone 6-3 in nine appearances, while ranking third with a .934 save percentage and sixth with a 2.36 goals-against average.
 
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 – Friday, May 20 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo
Game 2 – Saturday, May 21 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo
Game 3 – Tuesday, May 24 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Utah
Game 4 – Friday, May 27 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Utah
Game 5 – Saturday, May 28 at 7:10 p.m. MT at Utah (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Monday, May 30 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Tuesday, May 31 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo (If Necessary)