Tokarski leads Charlotte to 4-1 victory in ECF Game 5
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Friday, May 24, 2019
Charlotte (4) Toronto (1) Final
TORONTO — Dustin Tokarski backstopped the Charlotte Checkers to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night. The 29-year-old recorded 40 saves to give Charlotte a 3-2 series lead.
The Checkers were outshot 41-23 but will now return home with a chance to knock off the defending champions and advance to the Calder Cup Finals.
American Hockey League goaltender of the year, Alex Nedeljkovic, received the night off for the second leg of back-to-back games.
Trevor Moore scored the lone goal for Toronto, his fifth of the playoffs, putting him one back for the team lead. The 24-year-old had a quiet night after the opening period, although he anticipates a strong response from the whole team in Game 6.
The Marlies had a flurry of opportunities in the opening frame but failed to convert of many of them. A power-play opportunity led to Moore potting his fourth power-play goal to tie the playoff lead with teammate Chris Mueller, featuring assists by Jeremy Bracco and Rasmus Sandin.
"It's just about trusting the process. I know you guys hear that a lot around here—but it's true," Moore said in the post-game scrum.
Bracco leads the team with 15 points and sits just two behind league-leader Andrew Poturalski of the Checkers. Meanwhile, Sandin leads all defencemen with 10 points, all assists, as a 19-year-old rookie.
Toronto was gifted with another power-play opportunity moments later but surrendered a shorthanded goal for the second straight game. A mishandle by Sandin led to a Nicolas Roy breakaway, who made no mistake in beating Michael Hutchinson to tie the score 1-1.
"Those are tough plays for the last guy back. You have a player who just turned 19, and we played him 30 minutes tonight. It's because of guys like him that we're still playing," Keefe said in confidence of his budding player.
A strong start to the second period saw the Checkers take a 2-1 lead just 0:18 into the frame as Steven Lorentz recorded his first goal of the playoffs—it also wound up being the game-winning goal. He redirected the initial shot by Stelio Mattheos to beat Hutchinson and secure momentum for the visiting team.
Charlotte added another tally in a span of 1:46 to extend Charlotte’s advantage to 3-1. Haydn Fleury joined in on the action and scored a second shorthanded goal to stun the home crowd of 7734.
Tempers ran high as the game progressed, with several scrums ensuing during stoppages in play. Referees allowed play to continue without assessing penalties until the final minute of the second period—Egor Korshkov and Josiah Didier were given matching roughing minors.
On a night where scoring was hard to come by for Toronto, they threw everything possible at Tokarski—who steered aside all but one on the night.
The Checkers would go on to add an empty-net goal to secure a Game 5 victory and 3-2 series lead before travelling home for Game 6 and possible Game 7.
Toronto will be all-in as they inevitably face two elimination games if they are to advance to the Calder Cup Finals for a second consecutive year.
Game 6 will go on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. inside Bojangles' Coliseum.