ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Newfoundland Growlers and Manchester Monarchs opened the North Division final series in St. John’s Friday night. During the regular season, the Growlers dominated the Monarchs, winning seven of the eight games played between the two teams. But, as cliché as it may be, the playoffs are a whole new season, and anything can happen. Such was the case Friday night, when the Monarchs took game one in Growlers territory.
The Monarchs got on the board first when forward Bokondji Imama took advantage of a misplayed puck. Thanks to some pressure from Manchester’s Pavel Jenys, Newfoundland netminder Michael Garteig misplayed the puck behind his own net, and couldn’t recover in time to stop Imama from poking it home.
Zach O’Brien tied the game 3:30 later when he tapped in Brady Ferguson‘s shot. The two teams entered the first intermission tied at one.
The Growlers took the lead halfway through the middle frame with a goal from Marcus Power. O’Brien took the puck away from Monarchs forward Sam Kurker and battled his way in front of the net. His shot was stopped by Manchester goaltender Charles Williams, as was Ferguson’s rebound attempt. But Power couldn’t be stopped; he found an opening and put the puck behind Williams. Newfoundland entered the final frame with a 2-1 lead.
Manchester’s Kevin Dufour tied the game just under nine minutes into the third period with his breakaway goal. The Monarchs went ahead again almost three minutes later on an odd play that Growlers defenseman Kristians Rubins likely wishes he could take back. Jenys skated into the Growlers zone and took a shot. Garteig made the save, but the rebound found its way to Imama’s stick, and he threw the puck toward the net. Rubins rushed in to help his goaltender, but inadvertently knocked the puck into his own net. Because Imama was the last Monarch to touch the puck, he was credited with the goal. The Growlers couldn’t make a comeback, and that proved to be the game-winner.
The teams face off once again in St. John’s Saturday night before the series shifts to New Hampshire for games 3-5 Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (if needed). If needed, games six and seven would take place in St. John’s May 6-7.
Reminder: Games three and four will take place at the SNHU Arena in Manchester. If needed, game five will take place at an alternate location (The Rinks at Exeter).