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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

Royals Avoid Elimination with Strong Start

Royals Avoid Elimination with Strong Start

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Newfoundland Growlers had been victorious in all three of their matches in Reading, Pennsylvania, to open their North Division final series against the Reading Royals.  They were carrying a seven-game win streak as they returned home.  The Growlers entered Thursday’s game four looking to complete the series sweep; instead, the Royals came out with a strong four-goal first period, staving off elimination with a 6-3 victory.

As has been the trend this postseason, the first goal came quickly, only 1:09 into the game.  Zayde Wisdom skated in on Newfoundland netminder Dryden McKay, pulling him to one side of the net.  Wisdom got McKay to commit, then passed across to Alec Butcher, who fired the puck into the open net.

Jacob Gaucher followed up with a mirror-image goal less than two minutes later.  This time it was Evan Barratt getting McKay to commit on the opposite side, passing across to Gaucher to blast it into the open net.

Gaucher netted his second less than two minutes later, and it was eerily similar to his first.  In a sense of déjà vu, McKay committed too early, leaving Gaucher open for the goal.  The tallies had come only 3:39 apart, and the Royals had a commanding 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

Will MacKinnon added a goal with less than two minutes remaining in the opening period.  He blasted a shot from the blue line that went top shelf on McKay, giving the Royals a comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the middle frame.

The Growlers came out for the second with a new goalie and a new mindset.  Luke Cavallin replaced McKay in net, and only 35 seconds in, Tyler Boland got his team on the board.  Orrin Centazzo exchanged offensive zone passes with Jonny Tychonick before tossing the puck to Boland to deflect it on net and past goaltender Pat Nagle.

Later in the period, Pavel Gogolev picked up his second goal of the series.  Boland did a good job taking Royals forward Charlie Gerard off the puck, preventing him from clearing his zone.  Centazzo picked up the puck along the boards and passed it to the waiting Gogolev, who had skated up to the net untouched.


Following those two goals, Reading was doing a good job holding off Newfoundland, but a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey, especially against the top team in the conference.  An insurance goal was just what the Royals needed, and they got one when Shane Sellar redirected Mason Millman‘s shot past Cavallin.

A few minutes later, Brennan Kapcheck got one back for the Growlers.  With big Keenan Suthers screening Nagle, Kapcheck’s shot from the faceoff dot beat the netminder to once again bring his team to within two.

With a little over three minutes remaining in the game, Millman added an empty-netter to seal the 6-3 win.

By the end of the night, Gaucher had four points (two goals, two assists); Wisdom had three assists.  McKay’s seven-game win streak came to an end as he was served his first loss of the postseason.  Also coming to an end were Mikko Kokkonen‘s five-game point streak (three goals, four assists) and Isaac Johnson‘s eight-game point streak (four goals, nine assists), which dated back to the final game of the regular season.

Surprisingly, Gogolev has been relatively quiet in this series.  Of his nine points this postseason, only three have come against Reading.  He has been held off the scoreboard in two of the four games thus far.

Early Goals

In this postseason, there have been 34 goals scored within the opening five minutes of the games.  The Royals lead the league with eight, including Thursday’s three.  The Growlers come in second with four.  Several teams have three.

Up Next

The teams meet up for game five Saturday.  If the Growlers win, the series is over.  If the Royals win, game six will be Monday, with a potential game seven being played Tuesday.  The victor will go on to face either the Jacksonville Icemen or Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Final.

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

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