Facing their sixth of eight away games, the Newfoundland Growlers seem to be enjoying mostly good fortune as they head toward the ECHL playoffs, which begin on April 20. Founded in 2018, the Newfoundland Growlers – the most recent ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs – were at the top of the North Division heading into their first playoff season and kept the momentum strong, claiming their first Kelly Cup victory in 2019, making them the first team since 1990 (the Greensboro Monarchs) to win the prestigious ECHL title in their inaugural year.
Four years later, after COVID restrictions cooled the team’s aspirations for a repeat performance in their 2020-2022 seasons, they are again riding high in their division as they head toward the playoffs.
Head coach Eric Wellwood said that as they head into their last games of the regular season, things are getting “exciting,” and the fans in the stands are on board.
“You get the sense that playoffs are around the corner, and it’s starting to get exciting. So hopefully, more people will start buying into us. Why not go on a long run?” he said.
But things can change in the blink of an eye. Pavel Gogolev, who sits 8th in franchise history with 30 goals as a Growler, is 11th in points (68) and 2nd in points per game (1.45 – Ben Finkelstein, also a former NL Growler – is 1st), has been traded to The Chicago Blackhawks.
* Rankings are current as of February 27.
During these last away games, Orrin Centazzo and Zach Solow get called up to the Toronto Marlies, and the Growlers sign defenseman Adam Holwell to a Standard Player Contract. Holwell has 14 points in 20 games for the St. Francis-Xavier X-Men of USports this season, so it will be interesting to see the St. John’s native suit up in black & gold.
While the playoffs are around the corner, the team still has to contend with a few more games on the road. The Growlers faced the Reading Royals for two games (2:5/4:2) before taking on the Trois-Rivières Lions for three nail-biters (6:1/3:1/2:4).
Some highlights of the games against the Royals include two goals by Isaac Johnson and a highlight-reel goal by Keenan Suthers that riled up play-by-play announcer Chris Ballard.
It was also great to see Adam Dawe – the eighth Newfoundlander to feature for the Growlers in 2022-23 and the 13th local product to play for the team in franchise history, according to his bio–score.
In game two, Dawe also got the crowd on the go in a fist-a-cuff against TRL Bradley Johnson.
More reason to keep an eye on ECHL hockey? Orin Centazzo earned his nickname (Scorin’ Orin), earning a hat-trick in game one against the Lions.
On March 1, the Growlers face the Maine Mariners (one game) and then the Worcester Railers (two) before heading home to play Reading Royals and the Adirondack Thunder on home ice in St. John’s, NL.
While the Growlers sit at number one, things can change. The Royals are in third position, and the Thunder are in fifth in the North Division. Just look at the last game played by the Growlers against the Lions. A late power play opportunity by TRL in the final moments of the third period – followed by an empty net goal – turned things around.
ECHL hockey is worth keeping your eye on this season, and the Newfoundland Growlers games will surely get the heart pumping.
Want to have some NL Growlers fun?
Text “GOAL” to 1-877-888-5575 to sign up for their new Growlers goalscorer predictor for a chance to win a Growlers Swag
To keep up to date on all things Newfoundland Growlers, visit https://www.nlgrowlers.com.