ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Reading Royals and Newfoundland Growlers met up at Mary Brown’s Centre for the final time this postseason on Thursday. After splitting the first two games of the series in Reading, the Royals took the next two in St. John’s, putting the Growlers on the brink of elimination.
Thursday night the Growlers looked like a team fighting for their playoff lives. They did everything they needed to do to extend the series. They committed fewer infractions (three minors and a fight); they improved on the power play (3-for-5 with the man-advantage); and most importantly, they scored first.
In every game of the series thus far, the team who scored first went on to win the game. Thursday’s game was no different.
Jeremy McKenna got the Growlers on the board first with his goal in the final minute of the opening period. Ben Finkelstein skated along the boards into Reading’s zone, then passed to the middle for McKenna, who was able to fire the puck past goaltender Pat Nagle for the 1-0 lead.
Reading’s Thomas Ebbing tied it up early in the second on a beautiful pass from behind the net. Linemate Jacob Pritchard had all the patience in the world as he skated all the way into the Growlers zone. Newfoundland netminder Keith Petruzzelli went down to make the save, so Pritchard held the puck and skated around the net with it. He found Ebbing skating in. Petruzzelli couldn’t get back into position quickly enough to make the save.
Orrin Centazzo put the Growlers back in the lead less than six minutes later. Isaac Johnson skated in on Nagle, then backhanded the puck to Centazzo at the corner of the net, and he was able to bury it.
The Growlers went into the final frame with a 2-1 lead.
Reading’s Brennan Saulnier arguably cost his team the game when he took two penalties (holding, roughing) at the 4:35 mark of the third period, resulting in a potential four-minute power play for Newfoundland.
The Growlers took full advantage.
Finkelstein took a shot from the blue line, and Nagle made the save. The rebound went straight to Pavel Gogolev, who was able to lift the puck above Nagle’s glove. It was Gogolev’s first pro playoff goal.
With four seconds remaining on Saulnier’s first penalty, the Growlers would remain on the man-advantage for another two minutes.
It didn’t last two minutes, however. It only took 32 seconds for the Growlers to capitalize on Saulnier’s second penalty.
Tyler Boland‘s wrister from the faceoff circle beat Nagle for a 4-1 lead. Finkelstein picked up his third helper of the night on Boland’s goal.
Newfoundland closed out the scoring just past the midway point of the third period. Gogolev passed across to Finkelstein at the point, who moved the puck up to Matteo Pietroniro at the left faceoff circle. Pietroniro fed the puck to Gordie Green at the corner of the net. Green redirected the puck back to Gogolev in the right faceoff circle, and he fired it into the net for the 5-1 lead.
The Royals now lead the series 3-2. The teams will head back to Reading for game six Saturday and game seven (if needed) Monday. The winner of this series will face the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Final.
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