ST. JOHN’S, NL – It came two days late, but it finally arrived—game four of the North Division semifinal between the Newfoundland Growlers and Adirondack Thunder. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, the game was postponed due to inclement weather in Newfoundland. Both teams’ Sunday flights were canceled, leaving them stranded until Tuesday, the Growlers in Montreal and the Thunder in Toronto. With the teams finally in St. John’s, they could continue the series Thursday at Mary Brown’s Centre.
Growlers Head Coach Eric Wellwood spoke before the game:
“I think it’s important for us as a team and as individuals not to be complacent that we had success for two games…I think it will be important for us to get off to a good start.”
Adirondack needed to make a statement after dropping games two and three by wide margins, but it was Newfoundland making the statement early on in game four. The Growlers put up three first period goals on their way to a 5-3 victory and 3-1 series lead.
Growlers forward Jack Badini got the scoring started when Thunder goaltender Jake Theut cleared the puck to the corner, allowing Keenan Suthers to take possession. Suthers brought the puck to the front of the net, allowing Badini to finish the job.
Later in the first, Michael Joyaux passed through traffic, right between the sticks of Sebastian Vidmar and Ryan Smith, to find Zach O’Brien at the corner of the net. O’Brien made it look easy as he gave his team a two-goal lead.
Less than 90 seconds later, Matt Hellickson scored to extend the Growlers’ lead to 3-0. Hellickson threw the puck into traffic in front of the Thunder net. The puck made its way through the crowd but sat untouched inches in front of the goal line. Hellickson circled around the net and tapped it in.
🚨 GOAL 🚨
HELLI MAKES IT 🌲#STANDPROUD pic.twitter.com/Vbljs72Pfs
— z – Newfoundland Growlers (@NLGrowlers) April 27, 2023
The opening 20 minutes appeared reminiscent of the previous game’s three -goal first period. The Thunder came out with a stronger middle frame, however.
Penalties to Todd Skirving and Tommy Miller only 12 seconds apart gave Adirondack an extended five-on-three. Vidmar passed through the crease to Patrick Grasso, who was in the sweet spot, scoring from exactly the same spot O’Brien had been in when he scored in the first period.
Just over two minutes later, Smith brought his team to within one with a fluky goal from center ice. Smith dumped the puck in from the red line, and Newfoundland netminder Dryden McKay failed to stop the puck as it took a funny bounce.
HAIL MARY FROM CENTER ICE, JUST LIKE HE DREW IT UP! pic.twitter.com/b0QLDzzKmn
— x – Adirondack Thunder (@ECHLThunder) April 27, 2023
Adirondack should have gone into the third period with all the momentum following those two goals. Instead, a defensive lapse led to an early goal for the Growlers less than three minutes in, and the Thunder were again down by two.
Defenseman Dajon Mingo failed to clear the defensive zone, allowing the Growlers to get set up. Miller took the initial shot, and O’Brien knocked home the rebound for his second goal of the night.
The Thunder did not give up that easily, however. Less than a minute later, Vidmar sprung Grant Jozefek and Travis Broughman on a slight two-on-one. The two exchanged passes before Broughman put it home to once again come to within one goal.
The Growlers were awarded an extended five-on-three a few minutes later, and like the Thunder earlier in the game, capitalized on it. With Jozefek and Colin Long sitting, Zach Solow blasted the puck from the faceoff circle and past Theut for the 5-3 lead, and eventual final score.
Solow after the win: “It was just a game of ebbs and flows…Personally, I’m just going out there, giving full effort.”
Newfoundland now leads the series 3-1.
Introducing the League Leader
O’Brien picked up an assist on Solow’s goal, giving him three points on the night. He is now in sole possession of the league lead with nine total points.
The teams face off again Sunday in St. John’s for game five. Newfoundland can close out the best-of-seven series with a win. Adirondack needs three consecutive victories to stay alive. The winner of this series will face the victor of the Reading Royals/Maine Mariners series in the North Division Final.
Around the League
North Division: After dropping games one and two in Reading, the Mariners battled back to take the next two at home before falling in game five, also on home ice. The series now shifts back to Pennsylvania for game six Saturday, and if necessary, game seven Sunday. Reading leads the series 3-2.
South Division: The Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays split the first two games in Charleston. The series then shifted to Estero for the next three. Florida took game three in overtime. The teams face off again Friday and Saturday in Florida. If the Everblades win both games, they will advance to the South Division Final. If not, the series will shift back to South Carolina for games six (Monday) and seven (Wednesday). Florida leads the series 2-1.
The Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Jacksonville Icemen split the first two games in Florida. The Swamp Rabbits took game one, then the Icemen took game two in a long, double-overtime affair. The series shifted to Greenville for the next three games, with the Icemen taking the first of those. Games four and five will be Friday and Saturday. If Jacksonville doesn’t win those two, the series will shift back to Florida for game six Tuesday, and if necessary, game seven Wednesday. Jacksonville leads the series 2-1.
Central Division: The Cincinnati Cyclones won their first two games at home before being shut out by the Fort Wayne Komets in game three in Indiana. Games four (Friday) and five (Sunday) will be played in Fort Wayne. If the Cyclones do not win both of those games, the series will shift back to Cincy for game six Tuesday and game seven Wednesday, if necessary. Cincinnati leads the series 2-1.
The Toledo Walleye swept the Indy Fuel in four games, scoring at least four goals in each game. The Walleye are awaiting the results of the Cyclones/Komets series to determine their opponent in the Central Division Final. Toledo won the series 4-0.
Mountain Division: After dropping two on home ice to the Utah Grizzlies, the first place Idaho Steelheads took game three on the road in overtime. If the Grizzlies take the next two at home (Friday and Saturday), they will complete the upset and advance to the Mountain Division Final. If the Steelheads can mount a comeback, the series would return to Boise for game six Monday, and if necessary, game seven Tuesday. Utah leads the series 2-1.
Like the Growlers and Thunder, the Allen Americans and Kansas City Mavericks have an unconventional format for their series. The first three games were played in Kansas City, and the final four will be played in Allen. The teams split the first two games before the Americans took the series lead during overtime in game three. The series now shifts to Texas for games Friday and Saturday, and if necessary, Monday and Wednesday. Allen leads the series 2-1.
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