SERIES PREVIEW | NORTH DIVISION FINAL VS. READING
The Newfoundland Growlers are into the North Division final where they’ll face the first seed Reading Royals, beginning on the road this Saturday night at Santander Arena.
Newfoundland had no walk in the park opening round as their fellow Canadians and bitter rivals, the Trois-Riviéres Lions, took them to 7 games where the Growlers were eventually able to close it out with a convincing 5-2 win on home ice this past Tuesday evening.
Reading required one less game and one fewer day than Newfoundland to reach the second round as they took down the Maine Mariners 2-1 in Game 6 on Monday night at Santander Arena. After dropping two out of three in Portland, the Royals were able to close it out on home ice as they remain perfect in their own building this postseason with a 3-0 record to date.
Despite being divisional counterparts, it’s been nearly three months since the Growlers and Royals last did battle — a 5-3 Newfoundland road victory back on February 20 where both Evan Neugold and Jeremy McKenna put up two goal efforts.
It’s been a tight matchup between these two across the 2021-22 regular season as Newfoundland boast a 4-4-1 record in nine contests, while Reading finished 5-3-1 against the Growlers. It was Reading’s slight advantage in the head-to-head standings that earned them top spot in the North Division and the ensuing home ice advantage for this series.
As formidable an opponent that both the Lions and Mariners proved in the opening round, a second-round clash between the Growlers and Royals was always the consensus choice to see which of these two powerhouses can advance to the conference final.
With the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the entire ECHL facing off for a spot in the third round, Growlers fans should expect another grueling series as their search for another run to the Kelly Cup continues.
Puck drops is set for 9:00 pm on Saturday and 8:30 pm on Sunday evening (NL time). 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 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) back at home can be purchased at nlgrowlers.com/tickets.
THREE SERIES STORYLINES:
Savvy vet vs. standout rookie:
Point out a successful playoff team and almost always there will be a strong goaltender stealing a game here and there along the way. Keith Petruzzelli had an up and down first round by his own high standards, but the ECHL All-Rookie had his best game of the series when it counted most in Game 7. For Reading, the return of veteran netminder Pat Nagle from the AHL proved pivotal in a 2-1 win in Game 6 over Maine earlier this week. This upcoming battle pitting first year pro and 23-year-old Petruzzelli against a 10-year ECHL veteran and 34-year-old in Nagle could decide which team’s season continues into the third round.
Local lads looking to stay hot:
Between injuries and line shuffling, the Growlers forward combinations were quite fluid across the opening round but the one constant for Wellwood was the presence and consistent production of Zach O’Brien and Tyler Boland on the top line. Amassing 11 points (2G, 9A) and 13 points (8G, 5A) respectively, the dynamic duo carried Newfoundland at times in games against the Lions. While scoring by committee would be welcomed with open arms by the coaching staff and fans alike, if the two Newfoundland natives can continue to fill the net at their first-round rate, the probability of getting past Reading will only increase.
Home ice (dis)advantage?
One of the more notable stats arising from the regular season head-to-head matchup between these two was the success of the visiting team. In the nine meetings between Newfoundland and Reading to date in 2021-22, the home team has won just once — a 4-2 Growlers win at Mary Brown’s Centre back on December 1, 2021. With the first two games hosted by the Royals, the onus is on Reading to make full use of their home ice ‘advantage’. Holding a 3-0 record at Santander Arena this year, Newfoundland will have intentions to maintain the road warrior mindset that worked so well for them in the regular season.
“I think if you were to make a prediction prior to the playoffs, this would probably happen, nothing against Trois-Riviéres or Maine who both proved to be very formidable opponents in the first round… it’s going to be a good matchup, they’re a very good team and we’ve had really close games against them all year.” – Head Coach Eric Wellwood on facing Reading in Round 2.
FULL SERIES SCHEDULE:
Game 1 - SATURDAY, MAY 7 @ 9:00 p.m. in Reading
Game 2 - SUNDAY, MAY 8 @ 8:30 p.m. in Reading
Game 3 - TUESDAY, MAY 10 @ 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 - WEDNESDAY, MAY 11 @ 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 - THURSDAY, MAY 12 @ 7:00 p.m.
*Game 6 - SATURDAY, MAY 14 @ 8:30 p.m. in Reading
*Game 7 - MONDAY, MAY 16 @ 8:30 p.m. in Reading
ALL TIMES LISTED IN LOCAL NL TIME