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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

ECHL North Division Final: Newfoundland Growlers vs. Reading Royals

ECHL North Division Final: Newfoundland Growlers vs. Reading Royals

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The North Division Final is set to begin Saturday, featuring the second place Reading Royals and the top team in the East, the Newfoundland Growlers.  The series will be a rematch of last year’s North Division Final.  Newfoundland defeated Reading in seven games in 2022, advancing to the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Everblades.  Florida won that series and went on to win the Kelly Cup.

There are several returnees from that series on both teams, including Royals captain Garrett McFadden and goaltender Pat Nagle, and talented Growlers forwards Zach O’Brien and Isaac Johnson.  O’Brien, Todd Skirving, and Derian Plouffe were all members of the Newfoundland team who won the Kelly Cup in 2019.

Final Regular Season Records

Newfoundland: 48-22-2-0, 98 points (1st in Eastern Conference, 4th in ECHL)
Reading: 41-25-5-1, 88 points (5th in Eastern Conference, 9th in ECHL)

How They Got Here

Newfoundland: Defeated Adirondack Thunder 4-1 in North Division Semifinals
Reading: Defeated Maine Mariners 4-2 in North Division Semifinals

Series Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, May 6 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 2: Sunday, May 7 – Newfoundland at READING – 3:00 pm ET
Game 3: Tuesday, May 9 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Thursday, May 11 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
*Game 5: Saturday, May 13 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
*Game 6: Monday, May 15 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
*Game 7: Tuesday, May 16 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
*If Necessary

Season Series Recap

The Growlers and Royals split their regular season series evenly, with each team winning five games.  Reading outscored Newfoundland 38-33.  In net, veteran Nagle carried much of the load for the Royals, while rookies Dryden McKay and Luke Cavallin shared the goaltending duties for the Growlers.

The usual suspects led their respective teams on the scoreboard.  Max Newton and Jacob Gaucher, two of the top three point-producers for the Royals during the regular season, each had 11 points in the series, Newton with six goals and five assists, Gaucher with three goals and eight assists.  For the Growlers, it was none other than O’Brien leading the way with 16 points (one goal, 15 assists).  Johnson had 11 points (five goals, six assists).

How Newfoundland Wins

Don’t allow either goaltender to get tired.  Last season, the Growlers were forced to use rookie netminder Keith Petruzzelli in all 19 postseason games.  With the first two rounds lasting seven games each, by the time Newfoundland faced Florida in the Eastern Conference Final, fatigue had set in.  In this series, Growlers Head Coach Eric Wellwood would be wise to use both McKay and Cavallin.  After giving up five goals to the Adirondack Thunder in game one of the North Division semifinals, Cavallin was replaced by McKay, who played the remainder of the series.  Cavallin had struggled against Adirondack at times during the regular season, but he had the better record against Reading.

How Reading Wins

For the Royals to stand a chance in this series, they will have to shut down the Growlers’ top line, no easy task.  O’Brien was tied for third in the league during the regular season with 87 points (23 goals, 64 assists), so he’s a threat by himself.  Add linemates Orrin Centazzo (21 goals, 25 assists) and Zach Solow (14 goals, 28 assists) into the mix, and they become an opponent’s worst nightmare.  Thus far, the trio has a combined 19 points in the postseason.  A healthy mix of strong defense and solid goaltending could slow them down.  The best man for the job is Nagle, who picked up four of Reading’s five victories in the regular season series.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Carrie Roberts covers the Adirondack Thunder for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAdkThunder.

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