SERIES PREVIEW | EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL VS. FLORIDA
The Newfoundland Growlers are into the Eastern Conference Final after two grueling seven game series, where they’ll now face the Florida Everblades for a spot in the Kelly Cup Finals beginning with Game 1 on Friday night at Mary Brown’s Centre.
Newfoundland found themselves trailing 3-1 to the Reading Royals in the North Division Final, but despite a shaky start and a pair of road contests to close the series, they found a way to get it done as they solidified the come back with a 4-2 win at Santander Arena on Monday night.
Florida have been sitting on the sidelines awaiting the winner of the Newfoundland-Reading series since May 11 as they managed to take down the Jacksonville Icemen in a four-game sweep — icing it with a 1-0 overtime win where former Growler Dylan Vander Esch scored the lone goal of the game.
Although Newfoundland and Florida have not faced one another in over two calendar years — their last meeting a 3-0 Everblades win on February 28, 2020 — there is no shortage of history between these two hockey clubs.
The Growlers and Everblades faced off at this same stage in 2019 where Newfoundland advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals before ultimately taking down the Toledo Walleye to take home the league title in their inaugural season.
Back in 2019, the Growlers were able to win the Eastern Conference Finals in five games, shutting out the Everblades in three of their four victories, but both rosters have experienced plenty of turnover since their last postseason clash three years ago.
Today’s high-flying offensive Newfoundland group who’ve been forced to alter their game at times in the postseason await their latest test in round three: A big and physical Florida group who keep opposing scoring chances to a minimal.
While the strategy and style of play may change as the stakes get higher, the goal remains the same for the Growlers. Get back to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.
Puck drops is set for 7:00 pm on Friday and 7:00 pm on Sunday evening and Growlers fans can watch these two games and the remainder of the series live on FloSports (subscription required), listen to the call on Mixlr, or follow along on Twitter (@NLGrowlers) for game updates and highlights.
Tickets for games 1 and 2 as well as games 6 & 7 (if necessary) back at home can be purchased at nlgrowlers.com/tickets.
THREE SERIES STORYLINES:
Element of the unknown:
In the opening two rounds of the postseason, Newfoundland had no shortage of previous experience from the 2021-22 season to reflect on in preparing for their respective opponents — to be exact, the Growlers played the Lions 14 times and the Royals on nine occasions across the regular season. The last time the team faced the Everblades, most of the current roster was not with the team and a different coaching staff was behind the Newfoundland bench. Although there was time for some video sessions between rounds two and three, expect something of a feeling out process on both sides to start the series.
Potent penalty kills:
Hovering around the 85% mark during the regular season, Newfoundland and Florida shared the league’s best penalty kill units. During the playoffs where the special teams battle becomes ever important, the team that can keep the opposition’s man advantage at bay has a strong chance of advancing to the finals.
Clash in the crease:
Strong goaltending has been a characteristic of both teams across 2021-22 between Cam Johnson (Florida) and Keith Petruzzelli (Newfoundland). While Petruzzelli has experienced up and downs within the postseason, he’s saved his best performances for elimination games. Johnson has had nothing but consistency to date in the playoffs, yet to be beaten in regulation through the first two rounds and boasting a 1.38 GAA and a .942%. While those numbers might be tough sustain against a potent Growlers attack, the goaltender which can elevate his game in the big moments will likely be playing in the fourth and final round.
“They don’t let in a lot of goals, especially if you look at their last series… and you can see why by watching them. It’s going to be difficult to score no doubt about that, but I have faith in our guys that we’ll score goals at the right times.” – Head Coach Eric Wellwood on facing Florida in Round 3.
FULL SERIES SCHEDULE:
Game 1 - FRIDAY, MAY 20 @ 7:00 p.m.
Game 2 - SUNDAY, MAY 22 @ 7:00 p.m.
Game 3 - WEDNESDAY, MAY 25 @ 9:00 p.m. in Florida
Game 4 - FRIDAY, MAY 27 @ 9:00 p.m. in Florida
*Game 5 - SATURDAY, MAY 28 @ 8:30 p.m. in Florida
*Game 6 - TUESDAY, MAY 31 @ 7:00 p.m.
*Game 7 - WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1 @ 7:00 p.m.
ALL TIMES LISTED IN LOCAL NL TIME