READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals and Newfoundland Growlers are set to kick off the North Division final series Saturday. It should be an exciting series to watch, with the top two teams in the Eastern Conference fighting to advance.
This will be the first time the teams have met in the postseason. Newfoundland joined the league for the 2018-19 season and won the Kelly Cup that year; Reading didn’t even make it to the postseason. After a COVID-shortened 2019-20 season and the cancellation of the 2020-21 season for the entire North Division, the Growlers finally have a chance at making a run for the Cup again. The Royals also have a Kelly Cup championship under their belts, having won in 2013.
Final Regular Season Records:
Reading Royals: 45-17-7-2 (1st in Eastern Conference)
Newfoundland Growlers: 42-20-4-1 (2nd in Eastern Conference)
How They Got Here:
Reading defeated Maine in North Division semifinals, 4-2
Newfoundland defeated Trois-Rivieres in North Division semifinals, 4-3
Game 1 – Saturday, May 7 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:30 pm ET
Game 2 – Sunday, May 8 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 3 – Tuesday, May 10 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
Game 4 – Wednesday, May 11 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
Game 5 (if necessary) – Thursday, May 12 – Reading at NEWFOUNDLAND – 7:00 pm NT
Game 6 (if necessary) – Saturday, May 14 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 7 (if necessary) – Monday, May 16 – Newfoundland at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Season Series Recap:
The Royals took the regular season series with a record of 5-3-1-0.
Reading’s Jacob Pritchard arguably had the most success, racking up a gaudy 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in the series. Frank DiChiara also found some success against Newfoundland, picking up nine points (three goals, six assists), while teammates Patrick Bajkov, Dominic Cormier, and Thomas Ebbing each had eight points. Ebbing and Trevor Gooch each had hat tricks, both coming in a 9-2 victory on February 3rd.
For Newfoundland, Gordie Green led the way with nine points (two goals, seven assists). Jeremy McKenna and Matteo Pietroniro each had six points.
In net, Evan Cormier appeared in seven games for the Growlers, and earned all four of their victories. On the Royals side, Kirill Ustimenko, Pat Nagle, and Hayden Hawkey all split time in the net. Ustimenko and Nagle each picked up two wins, while Hawkey had the other.
How Reading Wins:
Stop the Growlers on home ice. Reading dominated Newfoundland on the road in 2021-22, going 5-1-0-0 in St. John’s and outscoring their opponent 27-13. The Royals need to continue that dominance while also finding a way to win on home ice, where they dropped all three regular season games against the Growlers.
Reading can rely on their top point-producers from the regular season to carry the load in the postseason as well. DiChiara, Pritchard, Gooch, and Bajkov are finding success in the postseason thus far.
The Royals have relied heavily on rookie goaltender Logan Flodell this postseason. He has three victories, but both losses as well. Flodell has not faced the Growlers yet, while Nagle has not only seen them in action, but has also had a bit of success against them. Reading would be wise to use Nagle a bit more in this series.
How Newfoundland Wins:
Continue to win at Santander Arena. The Growlers won all three games played in Reading during the regular season. They were less successful at home, going 1-4-1-0 against the Royals, so they’ll also have to find a way to win on home ice.
The Growlers were the top team in the league in power play percentage in 2021-22, capitalizing on 27.9% of their opportunities (29.9% at home, 26.2% on the road). They need to continue their success on the power play and take advantage of every opportunity during this series.
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