The Mary Brown’s Centre was on wheels for the last three games of the regular season as the Newfoundland Growlers faced their final ECHL rival for 2022-23 regular season, the Trois-Rivières Lions. Fans were not disappointed, though an unexpected announcement brought most to their feet and brought a tear to many an eye. More on that later.
The Growlers might have been missing a few of their regular players, as Zack Solo and Orrin Centazzo (Centazzo missed games one and two but was there for the final game in the series) were still with the AHL Marlies. While team Captain James Melindy wasn’t suited up for the first two games, his appearance in the last game came with an unexpected twist – his retirement. But nothing could dull or stop the excitement and the momentum on the ice this past weekend.
On Friday night, the first game in the final home stand of the regular season, defenceman Jonny Tychonick – in his first home game for the club – delivered a goal and two assists, earning him first star of the game. Ryan Chyzowski, also during his first game with the Growlers this season, scored his first goal of the season moments after drawing a penalty. Zach O’Brien was the assist on that goal which meant he matched his highest-ever points total in his career as a pro player.
We have to mention Todd Skirving here. Skirving just signed his first AHL deal with the Marlies and went up to play for a bit with the AHL team before returning to Growlers’ turf for the final three games in the season. I was ready to play but couldn’t. The issue? Skirving showed up – as did his parents, who were visiting from Thunder Bay to cheer on their lad and his mates – but Skirving’s gear didn’t make it in time for the Friday night game, but he was there in full glory on Saturday evening to the delight of all the fans – and family members – in the stands.
Ryan Francis with the Lions scored his second goal of the night during the Friday evening game. Still, Jonny Tychonick, new to the Growlers lineup from college hockey (University of Nebraska-Omaha), let loose on the power play scoring the second goal of his pro career. Later in the period, Keenan Suthers, who has been something to watch in his first pro season with Newfoundland, tipped one near the net for his 17th goal of the year. Suthers scored again on Sunday, marking his 18th so far this season.
Gogolev scored the night’s final goal, making it a 5-3 Growlers win. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that Gogolev scored a hat trick, and fans made it rain ball caps from the stands in honor of the achievement. Gogolev repeated that hat trick performance (Yes! back-to-back hat tricks) on Sunday afternoon, marking his 32nd goal scored with Newfoundland this season, a Growlers franchise record. It was a 7-goal-and-1-assist weekend for Gogolev, and the popular forward enjoyed every minute of fan appreciation. With that last successful shot on net, Gogo passed Scott Pooley’s mark of 31 goals in a single season set during the 2018-19 Growlers season.
Tychonick spoke to the media after the game Friday night, sharing that playing pro has been something he’s wanted since starting in the game as a lad. “It’s been unbelievable,” he said after the game about his experience with the Marlies and the Growlers. He shared that having played the first few games on the road in Florida with Newfoundland allowed him to bond with the team over meals and away-game accommodations. “I love this team,” he said, adding, “I’m so happy to be here.” Fans showed they were happy to have him, cheering loudly for each goal.
However, the Saturday night game will leave any true hockey fans talking for quite some time. That night belonged to goalie Luke Cavallin who stood on his head to keep the puck from going in, but the team was on fire. Gogolev attempted ‘The Michigan,’ and fans went wild, but the place lit up when the popular forward scored that hat trick and secured his 30th goal this season.
The energy was crazy in the arena, and the many great saves by Cavallin and a few rowdy moments near the nets between the two teams kept the energy high.
The defense was at its best, and only one goal was scored on Cavallin. The final score for the night was 4-1 Growlers.
The Newfoundland Growlers didn’t disappoint on Sunday, making it three straight wins over the Lions with an impressive 9-2 victory.
Gogolev opened the scoring six minutes into the first period with a power play snipe to put Newfoundland ahead, and then Suthers doubled the Growler’s lead eight minutes later. Gogolev notched his second for the night, giving Newfoundland a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes in the first.
Three more goals were scored in the second period. Ryan Chyzowski secured a pair, and Michael Joyaux and Suthers tipped one in each making it 6-0 after two periods.
After Nicolas Guay and William Lemay got two for Trois-Rivières early in the third, the Growlers reset the pace as Captain James Melindy and forward Isaac Johnson joined the party, and Gogolev completed his hat trick.
If Cavallin was the star Friday and Saturday night, then Dryden McKay shone just as brightly on Sunday by making 22 impressive saves.
A dust-up on the ice between James Phelan of the Lions and Centazzo left Melindy hot under the collar and in his glee as he riled the fans to their feet, cheering on their feisty Captain. Little did fans know that at the end of the night – with a goal and a hight-light-worthy fight in the can – Melindy would announce his pro-hockey retirement. Speaking to the media postgame, Melindy said the night was everything he could have ever wanted and more.
With this past weekend’s wins, the Growlers clinched 1st in the North and Eastern Conference, and they could get 100 points by season’s end while on the road as they face the Reading Royals this Friday at 8:30 pm.
Who will the Growlers face first in the playoffs? The Worcester Railers are just above the Adirondack Thunder by one point, but Adirondack has one game in hand. Worcester’s last two games of the season are against Adirondack, so Newfoundland fans will stay tuned to see what happens there.