ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Newfoundland Growlers season came to a grinding halt on March 12, and so too did their hopes of a Kelly Cup repeat (for now). It was an all-around solid season from Newfoundland, riding off strong performances in the blue paint.
Final Record: 42-17-0-1, 85 points (1st in North Division, 3rd in East, 4th in ECHL).
Leading Scorer: Brady Ferguson led the Growlers in 2019-20, scoring 63 points in 57 games (24 goals, 39 assists); Justin Brazeau scored the most goals with 27.
Best Netminder: The best goaltender for the Growlers for the 2019-20 campaign would be Parker Gahagen by a mile. Parker started the season in the SPHL, but in his 15 ECHL starts, he posted a 10-4-0-0 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.81 goals against average, and a pair of shutouts.
While he was in Toronto, we took a moment to speak to the goaltender (link)
High Point: One of the highest mountains the Growlers climbed this season came in mid-February when the Growlers broke the ECHL home winning streak record. From October 19th to February 15th, the Growlers hadn’t lost a game at home, posting 19 straight W’s.
Low Point: One of the all-around weak points for the Newfoundland Growlers for the 2019-20 calendar would be the penalty kill, which finished in 21st, registering south of 80%. Oftentimes, the Growlers found themselves trapped in their zone when short a man, and weren’t able to clear out a chunk of the advantages.
Highlight of the Season: On December 7, the Newfoundland Growlers honored the St. John’s Maple Leafs. Former St. John’s Maple Leafs Broadcaster Brian Rogers returned to the broadcast booth for the game, cherishing old memories along the way. The Growlers took the game 3-2 against the Worcester Railers.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs have shaped the hockey community here in Newfoundland and Labrador so much over the years, and we are proud to be able to celebrate the past, present and future of hockey in this province.” Growlers Dean MacDonald said.
Surprises: Parker Gahagen is easily one of the biggest surprises in the ECHL. In his first 11 games in the starter’s net, Parker posted a .947 save percentage. He was named ECHL Goalie of the Week on February 4 after backstopping his team to domination against Brampton. In the series, Gahagen published a 2-0-0 record with a shutout, a .983 save percentage and an infinitesimal .50 goals against average.
If the season continued…how would it have played out?
While I think the Growlers have a strong lineup, the Growlers would have had a tough time in the first round of the playoffs (if the matchups stayed the same). The Growlers would have had to face the Maine Mariners in the North Division semifinals. The season series was parked at 7-6, with both teams seesawing wins. With Maine having a hand in seven of the Growlers’ 17 losses, Maine had the Growlers number through the campaign, making for a thrilling first round.
There’s no doubt in my mind the Growlers were positioned for a deep run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and could have been in a stronger position to repeat as Kelly Cup Champs. Why? The Toronto Marlies were on the outside looking in on the playoffs, and with every game that passed, they slipped more. There’s also no doubt that the Marlies would have had several players to send down to the rock. Additionally, Gahagen would have been returned to the lineup by that time, pending no additional injuries. Kasimir Kaskisuo was listed as a week-to-week in mid-March with a timeline for the first week of April.
Focus for the Offseason
For the Growlers, they had a playoff team. Sometimes it’s best not to kick the can down the road, in hopes of saving a dynasty (case in point San Jose Sharks or L.A. Kings). Keeping a balance of talent that you have, and new fresh blood will be vital. Some of the players in the ECHL may be due for an upgrade, so keeping in mind who’s staying and who’s going could be crucial.
For the Newfoundland Growlers, riding off the same strategies as 2019-20, while keeping a fresh and active roster is vital. Continuing the goal-scoring crusade, while finding a way to solve the penalty kill woes from this is the name of the game, and a second Kelly Cup is the prize.
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You can keep up with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers during the extended off-season by following Zack on Twitter @SinBinMarlies and @SinBinNews for updates on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL.