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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

Strong Second Period Propels Thunder to Victory

Strong Second Period Propels Thunder to Victory

GLENS FALLS, NY – The ECHL kicked off its Kelly Cup playoffs Wednesday with a North Division matchup in Glens Falls, with the number four seed Adirondack Thunder hosting the number one seed Newfoundland Growlers.  The teams have never faced off in the postseason, but have seen enough of each other since Newfoundland joined the league in 2018.  The Growlers went on to win the Kelly Cup in their inaugural season, while the Thunder were eliminated by the now-defunct Manchester Monarchs in the North Division semifinals that season and haven’t seen the postseason since.

The Thunder must have been starving for a playoff win after all that time, and they wasted no time in game one, scoring two quick goals less than five minutes in.  The Growlers tied it later in the first, but a strong second period from the Thunder put the game out of reach, and the home team came away with a 5-3 victory.

Adirondack’s newest defenseman, Dajon Mingo, passed the puck to fellow blueliner Ryan Orgel in the faceoff circle, and he beat Newfoundland goaltender Luke Cavallin for the first goal of the postseason.  The power play goal came less than four minutes into the game and just over a minute into Zach Solow‘s goaltender interference penalty.

Less than a minute later, Growlers forward Pavel Gogolev backhanded the puck directly onto Nick Rivera‘s stick, and he sprung Ryan Smith and Matt Jennings.  Smith passed to Jennings, who got past everyone for a clear shot on Cavallin.  Only 4:28 into the game, the Thunder had a two-goal lead over the top team in the Eastern Conference.

The Growlers would not go down that easily, however, and they came back in the latter half of the first period.  Michael Joyaux cut the lead in half with his shot from the blue line.  Then with less than 20 seconds remaining in the opening period, Newfoundland capitalized on a power play to make it 2-2.  Zach O’Brien fed Orrin Centazzo, who was lurking around the Adirondack net, and he showed off his skill with an absolutely beautiful between-the-legs goal.

Following Centazzo’s game-tying goal, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” was played.  Like Petty, the Thunder refused to back down.

In a clear show of dominance, Adirondack took over the game in the second period, heavily outshooting Newfoundland 14-1 and scoring three goals in the process.

Thunder Head Coach Pete MacArthur: “The second period was really big for our guys to show themselves they can keep playing with this team because they’re a really talented group.”

The first of the three goals was a fluky one.  Grant Jozefek backhanded the puck from behind the net; it banked off Cavallin’s foot and in.  No big surprise there, as the Thunder had been scoring similar goals all season.

Less than two minutes later, Mingo picked up his second point of the game when he fed captain Shane Harper, who fired through traffic for the 4-2 lead.

A little over a minute later, Orgel scored his second of the night from a nearly impossible angle.  The puck hit off Cavallin’s pad, went through his legs and into the net.  The goal chased Cavallin, who was replaced by Dryden McKay.

Tommy Miller got one back for Newfoundland less than six minutes into the third period.  Adirondack allowed Isaac Johnson to skate up the ice on a shorthanded odd-man rush.  He passed to Miller, who was on the doorstep to tap it past goaltender Mike Robinson.

With plenty of time left, both McKay and Robinson had to be perfect, McKay to avoid giving up an even larger lead to the Thunder, and Robinson to prevent a comeback from the Growlers.  Both netminders did their jobs, and the night ended in a 5-3 Adirondack victory.

Mingo: “The first game is very big for any team…That first game you want to come out and win.  Newfoundland’s a great team too, I think they’re one of the best teams in the league.”

McKay was perfect on the night with 13 saves, ironically the same number Cavallin had, while Robinson stopped 28 shots.  Four skaters had a two-point night: Adirondack’s Orgel (two goals), Harper (goal, assist), and Mingo (two assists); and Newfoundland’s O’Brien.

Unusual Playoff Format (3-4)

The most common playoff format in a best-of-seven series is 2-3-2, meaning the higher seed hosts games one, two, six, and seven, with games three through five being played in the lower seed’s arena.  In this case, the lower seed (Adirondack) is home the first three games, then the series shifts to Newfoundland for the final four.

The Mountain Division’s Allen Americans and Kansas City Mavericks are also playing the 3-4 format, with the third seed Mavericks hosting the first three games and the second seed Americans hosting the final four.  All other series are in the 2-3-2 format.

A Long Time Coming

The Thunder have not played a postseason game since April 20, 2019, when they were eliminated by the Monarchs in game five of the North Division semifinals.  Adirondack had come away with a victory the previous night to avoid the sweep.  The last time the Thunder won a playoff game on home ice was May 1, 2018, also against the Monarchs.  Adirondack went on to face the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference final that postseason, falling in five games.

Meanwhile, the Growlers have not only made the playoffs, but have gone all the way to at least the Conference Final, in both of their postseasons (2018-19, 2021-22).  In 2019, the Growlers defeated the Toledo Walleye to win the Kelly Cup; in 2022, Newfoundland fell to the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Final.  Florida went on to win the Cup last season.

MacArthur: “They’re a heck of a team, they have been since I played against them when they entered the league.”

*Note: The Growlers joined the league for the 2018-19 season.  The 2019-20 season was shortened by COVID-19, and the entire North Division opted out of the 2020-21 season.

Up Next

The series continues Friday and Saturday in Glens Falls before shifting to St. John’s for game four Tuesday, and possibly games five through seven, if needed.  Whichever team wins the best-of-seven series will face the winner of the Reading Royals/Maine Mariners series in the North Division Final.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

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

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