JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - The Toledo Storm played one of its worst games in a long time, but the stellar goaltending of Drew MacIntyre and a hat trick by Bracken Kearns allowed them to escape with a sweep of the Johnstown Chiefs.
Kearns scored twice in the third period and netted the game-winner to lead the Storm to a 5-3 win and a 3-0 sweep of Johnstown in the North Division semifinal series. MacIntyre made 30 saves, including a whopping 17 in the opening period.
Toledo advances to the division finals and will host Wheeling in Game 1 at the Sports Arena on Monday.
The Nailers defeated Reading 5-4 last night to take that semifinal series to 3-1.
"Give credit to Johnstown. They played like a desperate hockey club," said Storm coach Nick Vitucci. "If we did not have great goaltending, we would not have won tonight and Kearns just has a heck of a release. His shot is not easy to stop."
The Storm scored one goal shorthanded, one with a man advantage and two at even strength to take a 4-0 lead. But Johnstown answered with two goals to pull within two late in the third before the teams exchange goals in the waning moments of the game.
The shots ended up even at 33, but Johnstown came out flying and carried the play in the first period.
"We should not have been in it in the first period," said forward Matt Schmidt, who scored a power play goal. "We're lucky Drew kept us in it. We were very flat and we're fortunate to get the win tonight."
A laid-back crowd of 1,277, including a small group of Storm supporters, saw Kearns continue his domination at Cambria War Memorial Arena.
Kearns finished with three goals and an assist. He now has 11 points (7 goals and 4 assists) in his last six games in Johns-
"I always play well in this rink, even if I'm in a slump. I have a lot of confidence in this barn," Kearns said. "I saw a lot of the net tonight. Once that first one went in, you think you can score every time and it seems easy."
MacIntyre (3-0 in the playoffs) lost a shutout bid with just 5:46 left in the game.
Toledo was outplayed and outshot for the first time in some time, but still managed to take a 2-0 lead into the second period. The Chiefs easily could have led after the first period if not for the play of MacIntyre.
"I felt great. I knew I was leaving and I wanted to leave on a good note," said MacIntyre, who will be called up to Grand Rapids today. "Hopefully I'll be back to finish this."
Johnstown came out with all kinds of energy and outshot the Storm 17-8 in the first period. The Chiefs also had four power plays but could not solve MacIntyre, who had to be extremely sharp throughout the opening period.
"Give Toledo credit," said Johnstown coach Frank Anzalone.
"They shoot the puck a lot. Right now they are in a zone and things are going their way. When we had our chances, MacIntyre was good at taking them away."
Chris Blight opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal and Kearns gave his team a 2-0 cushion after the first period. Schmidt scored the only goal in the second with a power play tally.
The teams then combined to score four goals in the final 5:46 of the game.
The Storm was 2 of 5 on the power play and Johnstown was 1 of 7.
Johnstown goalie Morgan Cey faced five shots and let in two goals and was pulled by Anzalone with 9:47 left in the first period. Jonathan Boutin was inserted and finished with 25 stops.
"This is huge because it allows us to rest," Vitucci said.
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The Toledo Storm played one of its worst games in a long time, but the stellar goaltending of Drew MacIntyre and a hat trick by Bracken Kearns allowed them to escape with a sweep of the Johnstown Chiefs.