ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Newfoundland Growlers hosted the Florida Everblades for game five of the ECHL’s Eastern Conference Final on Sunday. The teams entered the afternoon tied at two games apiece. Once this match was over, one team would be on the brink of elimination. That team was Newfoundland. After possessing the lead on two separate occasions, the Growlers finally gave up the game-winner in the third period. Two empty-net goals from the Everblades gave them the 5-2 victory.
After being held to a single point (an assist in game three) in the series’ first four games, Pavel Gogolev opened the scoring Sunday with a goal less than halfway through the opening period. Florida’s Lukas Kälble was trying to move the puck up the ice when Newfoundland’s Tyler Boland forced a turnover. Gogolev picked up the puck and swooped in on Everblades goalie Cam Johnson, lifting it over the netminder’s shoulder.
The lead didn’t last long, however. 32 seconds to be exact. John McCarron skated down the ice and got past Jack Badini to put a shot on net. Newfoundland netminder Luke Cavallin made the save, but Blake Winiecki poked home the rebound to tie it at 1-1.
The Growlers regained the lead 39 seconds into the middle frame. Just off a faceoff in the Florida end, Everblades captain Ben Masella attempted to clear his zone but was stopped by Growlers defenseman Jonny Tychonick. Tychonick threw the puck in front of the net, and Gogolev deflected it past Johnson. Masella would be redeemed for his blunder, but not until much later in the period.
Meanwhile, both netminders played lights-out throughout most of the middle frame. Both Cavallin and Johnson stood on their heads, including breakaway saves for each, to keep their opponents at bay.
With less than a minute remaining in the period, Masella was finally redeemed with a power play goal. With Matt Hellickson serving the first penalty of the game, rookie Ashton Calder put a shot on net. Cavallin made the save, but Tyler Irvine picked up the rebound and passed to Masella, who buried it.
The score remained tied at 2-2 until the latter half of the third period, when Florida took the lead for the first time Sunday. Kälble picked up a loose puck along the boards and rifled it toward the Newfoundland net. McCarron redirected it and it sailed past Cavallin.
The Growlers couldn’t solve Johnson, and with only a few minutes remaining, pulled Cavallin for an extra attacker. Joe Pendenza and Cam Darcy added empty-netters for Florida to give their team a final score of 5-2.
Despite the score, it was a close game for most of Sunday. Without those empty-net goals, the teams were either tied or separated by a point until the final few minutes of play.
Gogolev: “I thought I had a pretty decent game, so did my linemates and the whole team. It was just a good team effort today…It was a tie game until the third period. It was just one of those battles where I think both teams played really well.”
Cavallin ended the night with 37 saves on 40 shots faced; Johnson stopped 24 of the Growlers’ 26 shots. Four skaters had a multi-point night: Florida’s McCarron (goal, assist), Winiecki (goal, assist), and Oliver Chau (two assists), and Newfoundland’s Gogolev with his pair of goals.
Both teams were extremely well-disciplined Sunday, with a total of two minor penalties assessed, one for each team, both of them for hooking. It was a far cry from game three’s 41 infractions totaling 218 minutes. Both are records for this postseason. No other game has seen fewer penalties than Sunday’s matchup, and no other game has seen more than last week’s game three.
The teams face off for game six Tuesday in St. John’s. If the Everblades win, they move on to face the Idaho Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Final. If the Growlers win, there will be a game seven to decide the Eastern Conference Champions. Game seven would be Wednesday, also in St. John’s.
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