The Reading Royals and Newfoundland Growlers started their series this Saturday to determine who will be crowned the North Division champion. Though shots on goal favored the Royals, the Growlers heavily dominated the game.
As the Royals came out for their first game of the series against the Newfoundland Growlers, a familiar and rather important face was missing during warmups. The leading goal scorer of the regular season, Max Newton, was missing from the lineup tonight; his absence was critical in what could have been the turning point for this game as the Royals remained scoreless in this first game of the series. The starting lineup for the Royals was a bit different compared to their previous series with the Maine Mariners, with regular-season points leader Charlie Gerard as the first one out of the tunnel, followed by Shane Sellar, Yvan Mongo, and defensemen Mason Millman and Garrett McFadden. As for the Growlers made due even without St. John’s native Zach O’Brien, with their starting lineup consisting of forwards Isaac Johnson, Keenan Suthers, and Jack Badini, with defensemen Tommy Miller and Jonny Tychonick. Their goaltender of the night with the shutout was Dryden McKay.
The first period set the tone of the game as Newfoundland came out steaming, scoring early at just 3:34 seconds by Keenan Suthers, his fourth goal of the postseason, assisted by Isaac Johnson and Jack Badini. The Growlers held the lead for the rest of the period and dominated the field. They kept aggressive through the period though the shots on goal would tell a different story. The Royals did not maintain much control of the puck even though they outshot the Growlers nine to four. Though only one goal was scored in the period, there were three penalties taken, a Delay of Game call at 9:46 by Growlers’ forward Brandon Kruse, a High-Sticking minor at 19:14 seconds by Growlers’ defenseman Jonny Tychonick and just at the 20:00 second mark of the first period, Royals’ forward Solag Bakich took a Roughing penalty after slight altercations at the whistle.
The second period didn’t get much better for the Royals as they still could not manage to get anything past Growlers’ goaltender, Dryden McKay. The Growlers remained in control of the period, not only outshooting the Royals nine to six, but they also kept aggressive through the second period. Pat Nagle was the team’s saving grace as he made up for the defensive offset the Royals seemed to maintain throughout the game. There were no goals from either side this period, but the last two penalties of the game took place in both Holding calls, with one on Growlers’ forward Jack Badini at 0:32 second and the other on Royals’ defenseman T.J. Fergus at 10:32 seconds.
The third period started nearly the same as the first, with the Growlers’ scoring at just 3:11 seconds into the period by Isaac Johnson, his third of the postseason, unassisted. The Royals still could not bring back the energy as they struggled to keep possession of the puck, attempting to get the game to overtime. Still, the hope was lost when Orrin Centazzo scored an empty net goal, his second postseason goal, assisted by Mikko Kokkonen and Todd Skirving. Though the game sheet shows that Reading outshot the Growlers 30 to 23, the game was nowhere close in control and possession. The Growlers dominated Game 1 of the series, but the Royals hope to bounce back in Game 2 in front of home fans.