These next three games are critical for the Newfoundland Growlers because the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs are five points away from securing a spot in the race toward the Kelly Cup. The Growlers face the Adirondack Thunder tonight for the first in a three-game series. With two more games against the Thunder this weekend at the Mary Brown’s Centre in St. John’s, NL, it looks like the Growlers are preparing to make a play towards a spot in the playoffs on home ice.
Pavel Gogolev and Growlers’ Head Coach Eric Wellwood spoke to reporters last weekend about staying focused as they prepared to head into yet another home series. Gogolev’s return following a short stint with the Chicago Blackhawks positions the team, boosting the power play opportunities particularly, for another Kelly Cup run, Wellwood said.
The Growlers made history in 2019 when they became the first professional hockey team in the province of Newfoundland to ever win a championship, and they did it in their first ECHL season, beating the Toledo Walleye 4-3 on home ice to take home the cup.
With an opportunity to clinch their place in the postseason this week at home, there’s been some interesting player news. Zach O’Brien set a new franchise record for assists in a single regular season in the last game against the Reading Royals, and Todd Skirving set a career-best for tuck-ins, currently sitting at 29.
Goalie Luke Cavallin has been called up to the Toronto Marlies. In contrast, netminder Keith Petruzzelli, Orrin Centazzo, and Jack Badini have been re-assigned to the Growlers from the Marlies. In contrast, Isaac Johnson has been sent back to the club from the Manitoba Moose, making for some interesting on-ice dynamics over these next three games.
‘Scorin’ Orrin’ Centazzo, a 22-year-old Marwayne, Alberta native, has played 17 regular season games with the Growlers so far this season, scoring 13 goals and adding 14 assists for 27 points. According to the Growlers website, his 1.59 points per game is the third-best in the ECHL this season. Centazzo suited up for five games at the AHL level during his time with the Marlies.
Centazzo was a fast fan favorite as a rookie, earning 51 points in 51 appearances for Newfoundland. He added another 15 points in the postseason, playing a significant role in the Growlers’ run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2022.
Petruzzelli, who is from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, played his first game in goal for the Growlers on October 22 in Trois-Riviéres, Quebec, kicking off the best season of goaltending in Growlers history, with five shutouts in just 23 games played.
In 2022, Petruzzelli was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team as the league’s top rookie goaltender and was also named to the ECHL All-Second All-Star Team, becoming the first Growlers goaltender to earn such honors, the team’s website proudly shares.
Johnson, a 23-year-old from Andover, Minnesota, made 39 appearances for Newfoundland during the 2021-22 season, scoring 15 goals – fifth on the team in goals scored – plus he added 11 assists for a total of 26 points to finish off his regular season.
Johnson scored the final goal in Game Seven of the North Division Finals in 2022, a move that helped lift the Growlers over the Reading Royals.
In more Growlers news, the focus on giving continues. The ECHL hockey team has partnered yet again with the Gathering Place to host the third annual donation drive for new underwear and socks during the game on March 17. Fans are encouraged to bring new socks and underwear of all sizes for the Socks and Underwear Toss that will be held during the first intermission to support the Gathering Place, a charitable non-profit community center in St. John’s, NL.
To purchase tickets, visit https://www.nlgrowlers.com/underwear, and for more info on the gathering place, visit http://www.kindnesswanted.ca/