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SERIES PREVIEW | EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL VS. FLORIDA

Wednesday, May 17th
SERIES PREVIEW | EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL VS. FLORIDA

The Newfoundland Growlers return to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season where they will once again face the Florida Everblades with Game One set for Friday, May 19.

Five games were all the Growlers needed for the second straight series as Newfoundland eliminated the Reading Royals in a North Division Final gentleman’s sweep, improving their postseason record to 8-2.

Dryden McKay had his first hiccup of the playoffs in Game Four against Reading but bounced back in impressive fashion for a decisive Game Five victory. The first-year pro now has an 8-1 record with a 2.34 GAA and a .914 SV% to date in the playoffs.

With Zach O’Brien sidelined, scoring was done largely by committee against the Royals but stand out performances from Isaac Johnson (4G, 9A) and Pavel Gogolev (5G, 8A) see them tied for the team scoring race with 13 points so far.

Other noteworthy stat lines include defenceman Jonny Tychonick’s 12 assists in nine playoff games – tops among all ECHL skaters – as well as Tyler Boland’s active three game goal streak since re-joining the club from the Manitoba Moose midway through the second round.

For Florida, it took one extra game in each of their South Division matchups to advance as they started off by upsetting the first seed South Carolina Stingrays in six games in round one before taking home the battle for the sunshine state in round two with a 4-2 series win over the Jacksonville Icemen.

A pair of Everblades in Tyler Irvine and Sean Josling are up to seven goals apiece while Joe Pendenza (5G, 7A) leads Florida in overall scoring with 12 points in 10 games having missed their last two contests against the Icemen.

In the three regular season meetings between these two teams, Newfoundland took two out of three at Hertz Arena in Estero back in March including a 37 save shutout from Dryden McKay on March 24 en route to a 3-0 Growlers win.

It’s the 2018-19 champs against last year’s winner for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2023 Kelly Cup Finals. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Puck drops for Game One is set for 9:00 pm on Friday night and Growlers fans can watch the opener and the remainder of the series live on FloSports (subscription required), listen to the call on Mixlr, or follow along on Twitter (@NLGrowlers) for game updates and highlights. Tickets for game 4 and games 5-7* back on home ice can be purchased at nlgrowlers.com/tickets.

*If Necessary

THREE SERIES STORYLINES:

Can you beat Cam:

A large part of the reason the Everblades hoisted the Kelly Cup last spring was the play of netminder Cam Johnson who earned playoff MVP honours thanks to a 15-2-1 record, 1.90 GAA and .931SV%.

Johnson has largely picked up where he left off midway through the postseason this time around backing a Florida group characterized by their tight defensive style.

The good news for the Growlers is they have their own red hot netminder in Dryden McKay – not to mention a former Kelly Cup MVP of their in own in Zach O’Brien who they hope to get back into the lineup in the near future.

If O’Brien alongside the rest of Newfoundland’s offensive weapons can find a way to solve Johnson, the Growlers have a great chance of getting their revenge.

Feeling out the format 3.0:

Newfoundland have been road warriors through two rounds of the 2023 playoffs, losing just once in six games away from the Mary Brown’s Centre to date.

With due respect to Reading and Adirondack, Florida on paper serves as the Growlers most daunting destination so far with three straight games in Estero on the schedule for round three.

If they can leave the sunshine state with a winning record as they managed to do in both of the first two rounds, four in a row on home ice to close the series will be a welcomed sight for Eric Wellwood and his staff.

ECF rubber match:

Twice have Newfoundland and Florida previously met in the postseason. Twice has it been the Eastern Conference Final and twice has the winner gone on to hoist the Kelly Cup.

It’s not as cut and dry as the winner of this series can start planning the parade, particularly with two strong teams in Toledo and Idaho remaining in the west, but history suggests getting over this hurdle is a pretty good indicator for both teams of what’s to come.

After Newfoundland needed just five games in 2019 to move on, Florida advanced the exact same way last year. Don’t be shocked if we see a longer series in the third ECF battle in five seasons between these two.

FULL SERIES SCHEDULE:

Game 1 - FRIDAY, MAY 19 @ 9:00 p.m. in Florida

Game 2 - SATURDAY, MAY 20 @ 8:30 p.m. in Florida

Game 3 - MONDAY, MAY 22 @ 9:00 p.m. in Florida

Game 4 - THURSDAY, MAY 25 @ 7:00 p.m.

Game 5 - SUNDAY, MAY 28 @ 4:00 p.m. *

Game 6 - TUESDAY, MAY 30 @ 7:00 p.m. *

Game 7 - WEDNESDAY, MAY 31 @ 7:00 p.m. *

*IF NECESSARY

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