NL Growlers ECHL Kelly Cup “Long Run”

Todd Skirving of the Newfoundland Growlers talks on-ice success and a run for the Kelly Cup Photo Credit: Newfoundland Growlers

Newfoundland Growlers Head Coach Eric Wellwood says this team is in for “the long run” toward the 2nd Kelly Cup championship. The Newfoundland Growers, an ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, secured the Kelly Cup championship in 2019 – the team’s inaugural year – with a 4-3 win over the Toledo Walleye. But the road toward a repeat performance isn’t always a smooth one. As the Growler’s Head Coach, Eric Wellwood, readied his team to hit the road to face Northern Division rivals Reading Royals, he took a moment to reflect on the last set of home games against the Adirondack Thunder.

There are a few feathers in the team’s cap heading into the last 25 games, or so, Wellwood shared. “(Pavel Gogolev’s) has been absolutely fantastic this year. He’s the type of player you call a game-breaker. Out of nowhere, for instance, in the last game – in the third period – he basically starts the game. He streaks down the wing, takes a very low-percentage shot but still scores. Because he’s that good. He’s got the knack to be able to do that”, Wellwood said proudly.


Another player to watch, Wellwood continued, is Newfoundlander Brett Budgell, who made an “epic goal” in the final game on home ice facing the Thunder on Feb 11th at the Mary Brown’s Centre in St. Johns, NL. “He’s been playing much better. He’s in that group of young guys – (Brandon) Kruse, (Nolan) Walker, and (Keenan) Suthers – who get better as the season has gone on. You can see the improvement they’ve made making the adjustment to pro for the first time – and that goal (Budgell) scored was really, really nice”.

Assistant Todd Skirving also has praise for his teammates. “(Gogolev) is really starting to come together as of late, and I had a feeling his name would come up,” Skiving opened with a chuckle. The team is “lucky to have him,” he said of his talented teammate. “We were lucky to get him in the playoffs last year. It’s never easy for a player to get sent down and kind of not know what’s going on. But for him to come back this year, being a little bit more familiar with how everything works, and he’s kind of stepped up his game now. You can tell that he’s getting more comfortable here”. Gogolev’s “fitting in well,” Skirving continued. “He’s controlling where he can control, and his success is only going to make our team better and lead to more wins for us. So obviously, we’re lucky to have him on our side. He’s a special player – an NHL shot. So when he gets in those areas, when he’s able to let it fly, you get those special goals with special moments and highlight reels”.


On Budgell’s “highlight reel goal,” scored on the Thunder’s Jake Theut, Skirving said he didn’t quite realize how great that play was until he watched it later on social media. Goals like that, he said, make the team “more dangerous,” an opponent on the ice.

Newfoundland Growlers/ECHL


“You can sense the guys kind of understanding their roles more to an extent … being happy for each other and pushing for each other, which I think, again, is leading to success. And then you pull off a move like (Budgell’s ) goal”. At the team’s Super Bowl gathering the next day, Skirving congratulated his teammate. “I said, ‘I didn’t realize how unbelievable of a goal that was. That was an absolute highlight reel’. I was on the bench looking at that video board, and you can’t see the puck as clearly. You know, it’s in the back of the net, and it went through some people, but then when you watch it on the replay after, you realize how high-end of a goal it was. Definitely happy for him, and when he’s contributing and when we’re getting guys up and down the lineup contributing, it just makes us that more dangerous. The deeper we are, the more that guys are contributing, the more success we will have”.


But that does not mean the team can sit back and relax, Skirving added. “Hopefully, it keeps going that way. Still tons of work to do, still a big chunk of the schedule left, and a lot of teams in it. So it’s going to take every guy in that locker room if we want to get back to the top again”, he said.
Skirving is having quite the season, scoring the fifth and final goal in the team’s last game.

“It’s the best offensive season in my pro career. It’s been a while since I’ve had this kind of offensive output, but credit goes to the coaching staff and them putting their trust in me in big situations and then just being surrounded by really good hockey players. Obviously can’t really do what I do without my teammates,” he said. As for Wellwood, he says he’s focused on the next set of away games. “This is going to be a very tough road trip for us. Just because of the time that we’re leaving for and the number of different cities that we have to travel to….”


The Reading series especially, he added, will be “interesting.” “We haven’t played them since the beginning of the season, which was our first three games, but we’re able to watch them on video. They seem to be playing very structured and don’t let in many goals, so I think it’s going to be a good battle to see where we are in our division. You know, obviously, with the playoff format, you play your first few against division opponents, and the top four teams are us, Reading, Maine, and Worcester, and all four of those teams are really good – offensive juggernauts – so I’m interested to see how it’s going to go.” With playoffs not that far off, he said these next few games would be telling. “I don’t really have too many expectations, but I think it’s going to kind of show us where we’re at and potentially who we are going to play either in the first round or, if we’re fortunate enough, in the second round.” It’s exciting times, Wellwood added, and the team is focused and ready. “We’re just looking forward to the last 25 games or so. You get the sense that playoffs are around the corner, and it’s starting to get exciting”.

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