ECHL Season In Review: Newfoundland Growlers Record-Setting Season

The Newfoundland Growlers may have lost 3-2 in Double OT to the Florida Everblades in game six of the Eastern Conference Fina. Still, it has undoubtedly been quite the season to celebrate overall. The heartbreaking loss in double overtime ended the team’s third straight conference finals appearance and their quest for a second Kelly Cup championship.

 Newfoundland’s playoff run was filled with some great highlight moments. Let’s not forget that the Growlers won a franchise-record 48 games. They also won the ECHL North Division and finished as the top team in the Eastern Conference. They also were the last Canadian professional hockey team standing in the postseason, another reason to celebrate. With multiple overtime, there were some epic wins and tragic losses. 

The final series against the Florida Everblades was a physical one for Newfoundland, where the players had a chance to show off their skills on the ice. Luke Cavallin, for one, was a joy to watch in net, and those last few games against Florida will go down for many as some of the best. The second to the last game of the season against Florida has even been referred to as the ‘Luke Cavallin Show.’ Dryden McKay also earned nods while in net for Newfoundland for back-to-back shutouts when Newfoundland faced the Reading Royals in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. 

There was so much to celebrate for the franchise this season. Star forward and fan-favorite Zach O’Brien set a club record with 87 points. Todd Skirving, Pavel Gogolev, Isaac Johnson, and Orrin Centazzo also had their best seasons as professionals and defenceman Michael Joyaux was named to the ECHL’s all-rookie team. Other players like Keenan Suthers improved as the year progressed and earned fan approval. 

Other playoff highs include Pavel Gogolev’s return to the team after it was announced he would be heading to the Chicago Blackhawks organization. The player who earned back-to-back hat tricks stuck around and was one of the last players on the ice following the team’s final game. Still, despite that determination to stick around in the hopes of a championship win, Gogolev has since announced he wouldn’t be returning next season. Sad, because the local fan base has latched on to the player, and his antics on the ice have earned him a following. 

Derian Plouffe also won’t be returning, having signed with a team in Norway.   Another significant loss towards the end of the regular season was team captain James Melindy, though his final game was also a season highlight for many. With a goal and a few enthusiastic fights under his belt that evening, the last game on the ice had to have also been a career-high. It was an emotional evening for fans and Melindy, and anyone there won’t soon forget it. 

So much to celebrate for this franchise. Besides having the most wins (48), the team also had the most points (98). O’Brien, who scored his 100th ECHL goal this past season – personally broke almost every record in the franchise’s history except for goals in a season – Gogolev broke that one. 

So many young players had the joy of experiencing their first pro goals. Zach Solow and Jonny Tychonick fed off the fans’ emotions and scored some epic points this past season. Todd Skirving, who has been with the franchise from the beginning, had a career season (31 goals) which is why the end of the season was so full of emotion. Watching these fantastic players leaving the ice following that final game, many wondered if some of the franchise’s long-time players would return. 

The team’s core guys have been critical to their success, but what’s next? Gogolev is gone. Plouffe won’t be returning. Tyler Boland is also off to Germany. The Growlers have some big shoes to fill heading into the next season. 

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