The Newfoundland Growlers vs. Adirondack series will be one to pay attention two, as these teams matched up very well during the regular season, with the Growlers finishing out on top with a 6-5 record vs. Adirondack during the regular season. These two teams head into the Kelly Cup Playoffs on opposite ends of the spectrum, as Newfoundland dropped their final two games of the regular season, and Adirondack needed to win their last two games to make the playoffs which they did. One huge factor of the series is the format, which you don’t often see as it will be a 3-4 format, as the Thunder, despite being the lower seed, will start the playoff at home. Adirondack is very excited to start on home ice. Captain Shane Harper talked about it yesterday during the Thunder’s media available on Tuesday afternoon, “massive, even before when we weren’t in the playoffs, the fans were unbelievable, they’ve been packing this place all year, and we can thrive off the energy that this building brings. It’s a hard building to play in; I wouldn’t want to play here as an opponent, especially for a playoff game. It’s gonna be awesome,” said Harper. Game 1 falls on the same day that the Thunder were eliminated by the Manchester Monarchs back in 2019.
It’s no shock that the Newfoundland Growlers are back in the Kelly Cup Finals for the third straight season, as they won the Kelly Cup back in 2019, and then last season they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Florida Everblades. Newfoundland finished the year with a franchise-best 48 wins and 98 points, just two short of the century mark. Leading the charge for the Growlers is Zach O’Brien, who led the league with 64 assists on the season and finished the year with 87 points which led the Growlers. The Growlers have a ton of weapons on their team, and the biggest one Adirondack will have to watch out for is Pavel Gogolev, who had 16 points against the Thunder this season. The Growlers had two 30-goal scorers this season in Pavel Gogolev(33) and Todd Skirving(31). One thing that seems to always help the Growlers is that they get a lot of help from the Toronto Marlies, and it shows with their playoff roster and playoff-eligible players.
One player the Growlers won’t have is James Melindy, who announced his retirement at the end of the regular season as he took a full-time job at a Fire Department in Newfoundland. Melindy has always been a thorn in the Thunder’s behind, and most Thunder fans will remember him for his fight off the opening draw earlier this season vs. Yanick Turcotte. Newfoundland has always had solid goaltending, and this year, rookie Luke Cavallin went 24-9-1 this season with a 2.56 GAA, a .917 save percentage, and two shutouts.
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and coming into the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Adirondack Thunder are just that. The Thunder came back from 20+ points down in January to crawl back into the race and made every game count as they would clinch their playoff spot in game 72 of the regular season to make their first appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs since 2019. There’s no doubt that the Thunder will be missing some critical names, as Yanick Turcotte and Jeff Taylor, who’ve both missed significant time down the stretch we’re ruled out for the playoffs by Head Coach Pete MacArthur. Forward Xavier Parent, defencemen Jarrod Gourley, and goaltender Isaac Poulter are all eligible to return to the Thunder for the playoffs. Right now, those three are with the Utica Comets(AHL). Adirondack has been a team with a middle-of-the-pack power play but finished the season in the top five regarding the man advantage away from Cool Insuring Arena.
The Thunder have been getting scoring all across their lineup, and I don’t expect that to be an issue for the Kelly Cup Playoffs as Patrick Grasso put up a franchise-high 37 goals and Captain Shane Harper picked up a franchise-high 75 points on the year. Adirondack’s blueline had looked shaky all season but seemed to find their groove with some new additions, including Dajon Mingo and Matt Slick. Mingo has been a stud for the Thunder and plays with a ton of energy in six games for the Thunder; Mingo has a goal and two assists. Adirondack is getting a few guys back for the playoffs, but none bigger than having Nick Rivera back in the lineup to help provide a physical presence and a big voice, “It’s huge; Riv (Nick Rivera) is a hard player; he’s hard to play against, he’s a playoff hockey player, and that will be great for us to have him in the locker room and you saw the thing Theut did for his down the stretch, and he’s been great for us all year, so to get another goaltender of his caliber back in the lineup is great too” said Weller.
The famous motto is Goalies with championships, and Adirondack has had nine different goaltenders take the crease for the Thunder. Leading the way for the Thunder in net is Jake Theut, who started the year as the third-string goalie. Still, due to Mareks Mitens being injured after opening night. Isaac Poulter seeing a chunk of time in Utica, Theut has played in 34 games, putting up a record of 16-13-4-1 with a 2.98 GAA and .907 SV%, Theut is expected to start game one, and if he’s not ready, it will be Mike Robinson who will get the nod, as Robinson carried the Thunder into the playoffs down the stretch, MacArthur did mention he expects as the very least Theut should be able to back up.
The Adirondack Thunder have momentum on their side, and unlike last season they’ve matched up well with the Growlers this season. They are getting healthy at the right time, and one of the biggest things in the Playoffs is a home-ice advantage; even though they don’t have it, they get to start in their building, which I believe is just as important. It will be crucial that the Thunder take two of the three games in Glens Falls to have a chance at winning the series. The Growlers have not lost a home game since March 18th and picked up a least one point in seven of their final eight games at Mary Brow Center. Adirondack has been feeding off the energy of their fans lately, but it will be a very tough task to come from behind in Newfoundland. My prediction is that it will be the Adirondack Thunder who will advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in six games.