ST. JOHN’S, NL – There’s something about the Newfoundland Growlers and playing at home. The Growlers have an 11-2 record on home ice this year and have recorded a win in seven of their last ten. After dropping their last two games in Utah this past weekend, Newfoundland was ready for redemption last night against the Adirondack Thunder.
The contest is the first of six between the two on the season, with their last meeting coming in January of last year. Having Maksim Zhukov and Eamon McAdam in the pipes, fans were in for a goaltending treat – at least so I thought.
Though the Growlers dominated the play early on, the Thunder would strike first. After the Thunder missing a great opportunity on their first shot, Nikita Popugaev would score on a glorious partial break to score on the back-hand.
The chances wouldn’t stop there, as Matt Salhany busted through the sideboards and ripped a shot onto Zhukov that squeaked by on the glove side. The goal was the Thunder’s second goal on just three shots.
“I think we left (Zhukov) out to dry; we didn’t have a good first five minutes,” Growlers forward Brady Ferguson said.
During a media timeout, the Growlers looked somewhat discontent. Zhukov skated towards the bench and never came back, thus ending his night and creating a spot for Parker Gahagen.
Shortly after the timeout, Evan Neugold ripped a shot towards his former teammate and found an open slot on the glove side to get the Growlers back into the game.
The first goal gave the Growlers confidence to get back into the game. Just moments later, Brady Ferguson made a beautiful toe drag to clear the defense and throw a wrap-around on McAdam. The goal shined a new light on the team who were able to hold down the fort and finish the period strongly.
Even with the Growlers short-handed, the confidence of the Growlers continued to buzz. Matt Bradley made a stunning breakout pass to find Scott Pooley to get Newfoundland their first lead of the game.
With the first period, I would be crazy not to look back on the influence of the first TV timeout. Though many frown upon timeouts, because they slow down the game, they also act as a way for teams to recuperate and jump back into the game. With Newfoundland jumping on the timeout and pulling their goalie, the difference in the team looked like night and day.
The Growlers kept confidence through the middle portion of the second. The offence stayed keen to begin, and Gahagen kept them alive at every turn.
— Zack Power (@zackpowerNL) December 17, 2019
The pace would change near the midway mark of the game, with the Growlers taking a second too many men penalty. The Thunder capitalized by getting set-up in the zone and Newfoundland had a hard time killing the Adirondack power play. With the wheels in motion, Ryan Walker scored on a slot shot to tie the game at three.
The third period began with an early buzz from the Growlers. Moving the puck around the offensive zone, it was like Adirondack couldn’t touch the puck. Having Justin Brazeau in the slot, he received a pass from Colt Conrad to finish the mission and put the Growlers up by one.
Newfoundland and Adirondack would ping-pong towards the finish, with Newfoundland slight ahead on the shot clock 6-2 through the first 10. It became more apparent that the Growlers wanted to protect the lead in third, instead of enriching it. With defense keeping the Thunder on the outside, it forced Adirondack to take poor shots.
To pot the insurance goal marker, 19 came up strong in the ladder stages of the third. With an old-time slap shot from the circles, it was enough to fool McAdam to put a final nail in the coffin. With this point, Giorgio Estephan moves to third in the league in points.
Adirondack hard a hard time slowing down the Growlers yesterday. With Newfoundland leading the ECHL in goals for, It’s hard to say anyone has. Leading 2-0 early in the first, the Thunder could have made a big roar of confidence in the second half of the first and didn’t.
For Newfoundland, the last 50 minutes saw the Growlers regain their identity. By taking advantage of a media timeout, they rallied to give themselves a lead they would not relinquish.
“I think once we got the first one that broke the flood gates and that gets us going,” Growlers head coach John Snowden said.
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— Justin A. Cohn (@SportsiCohn) December 16, 2019
Zack Power covers the AHL’s Toronto Marlies for The Sin Bin. Give him a follow on Twitter, and be sure to “like” The Sin Bin on Facebook for all your additional AHL, ECHL, and SPHL minor league hockey coverage!