The Newfoundland Growlers are through to the second round of the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs where they will face the Reading Royals in the North Division Final for the second straight season.
After a Game One scare where the Adirondack Thunder took down the Growlers 5-3, Newfoundland bounced back in impressive fashion to take the next four games, defeating the Thunder in five and outscoring them 26-13 in the process.
Dryden McKay impressed against Adirondack between the pipes after relieving Luke Cavallin in the first game of the postseason. The first-year pro has a 4-0 record with a 1.80 GAA and a .935 SV% to date in the playoffs.
On the offensive side of things, Zach O’Brien leads the pack with nine points (4G, 5A) through five games – good for first in the ECHL scoring race after round one.
For Reading it took one extra game for them to advance to the second round as they eliminated the Maine Mariners in six, winning all three contests at Santander Arena.
A pair of Royals in Jacob Gaucher (4G, 4A) and Evan Barratt (2G, 6A) led Reading with eight points against Maine, a tie for second place in the league behind O’Brien. Defenceman Garrett McFadden also leads the ECHL in points at his position with seven.
In the 10 regular season meetings between these two teams, each side secured five wins apiece with Reading earning one more point thanks to an extra overtime defeat.
Evenly matched across the regular season and the consensus top two teams in the division dating back to 2021-22, the latest playoff chapter of Growlers vs. Royals has the potential for all the fireworks displayed in last year’s epic seven game series.
Puck drops for Game One is set for 8:30 pm on Saturday 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.
THREE SERIES STORYLINES:
Red hot rookie vs. Seasoned vet:
Newfoundland’s Dryden McKay entered game one of the first round in place of fellow first year Luke Cavallin and hasn’t looked back since, winning all four of his starts to close out the series.
Pat Nagle, much like McKay, was in goal for all four of his club’s first round victories as his only loss in the starters net came in a Game 3 overtime defeat against Maine.
The one major difference between the two standout goalies is their age with Nagle a full decade older than the rookie McKay and in his 12th season as a professional.
Experience is a great asset but having a Hobey Baker winner in goal doesn’t hurt either.
Feeling out the format 2.0:
Newfoundland passed the perceived test of their three-road game start in round one, winning two of three in Adirondack before requiring just two on home ice to close the series out.
Due to several factors, the same format will be in play against Reading with Newfoundland facing three in a row at Santander Arena to open the North Division Final. If the Growlers can get the edge against a Royals team 3-0 at home in the postseason, heading home for the final four games will be a welcomed reward.
Ain’t over ‘til it’s over:
Newfoundland need to look no further than last year’s North Division Final against Reading for a reminder to take things one game at a time. For those fans who might not recall, the Growlers found themselves down 3-1 in the series before ultimately defeating the Royals in Game 7 on the road.
The fourth one is always the hardest to win and luckily for Newfoundland, that decisive game will be played at Mary Brown’s Centre.
FULL SERIES SCHEDULE:
Game 1 - SATURDAY, MAY 6 @ 8:30 p.m. in Reading
Game 2 - SUNDAY, MAY 7 @ 4:30 p.m. in Reading
Game 3 - TUESDAY, MAY 9 @ 8:30 p.m. in Reading
Game 4 - THURSDAY, MAY 11 @ 7:00 p.m.
Game 5 - SATURDAY, MAY 13 @ 7:00 p.m. *
*Game 6 - MONDAY, MAY 15 @ 7:00 p.m. *
*Game 7 - TUESDAY, MAY 16 @ 7:00 p.m. *