ST. JOHN’S, NFL – After a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Florida Everblades in game three of the Eastern Conference Final series Wednesday night, the Newfoundland Growlers were chomping at the bit for some revenge in game four Friday. They got their revenge and then some, with a 6-0 rout over the higher seed, led by forward Zach O’Brien.
Newfoundland got on the board at 14:19 of the first period, after a misplay by Florida netminder Callum Booth. Booth tossed the puck into the corner, meant for teammate Joe Cox, but Growlers forward Brady Ferguson got to it first. Ferguson passed to Scott Pooley, whose shot was stopped by Booth. O’Brien put home the rebound for his first of the night.
The Growlers extended their lead less than five minutes later when Giorgio Estephan sprung Josh Kestner for a breakaway goal. Newfoundland closed out the first period with a 2-0 lead.
After a relatively tame opening period, both teams exploded in the latter half of the second. After O’Brien’s second rebound goal at 10:27, Florida started to unravel. Tempers flared and foolish penalties were taken. A total off 77 penalty minutes were issued to the Everblades in the latter half of the game, with 33 coming in a span of 4:39 during the middle frame. The Growlers were assessed one minor penalty early in the second.
Newfoundland took full advantage of Florida’s second period penalties, scoring three power play goals. The first of those came at the 13:06 mark when Ferguson fed Estephan from behind the net. Florida’s Blake Winiecki was serving his cross-checking penalty at the time.
Everblades defenseman Ben Masella received a boarding major at 15:07 of the middle frame. Teammate Patrick McCarron was called for slashing only 17 seconds later, giving the Growlers a two-man advantage. Estephan set up Ferguson for the 5-0 Newfoundland lead. McCarron was released from the box, but the Growlers remained on the power play.
With Masella’s major penalty continuing, Michael Downing joined the train to the Florida penalty box, a slashing call at 16:36, giving Newfoundland another 5-on-3. With only seven seconds remaining on Downing’s penalty, O’Brien sent hats flying with his third of the game, all three on rebounds. It was his second hat trick of the postseason, the first coming in the 5-1 victory over the Manchester Monarchs to close out the North Division final series (and come to find out, the Monarchs’ existence).
Florida goaltender Booth remained in net during the second period barrage but was replaced by Jeremy Helvig to start the third period.
There was no scoring in the final frame, but things weren’t over just yet. A total of 70 penalty minutes were assessed in the final minutes of the third, with five 10-minute misconducts and 18 minutes of roughing calls within a span of 86 seconds.
Michael Garteig picked up the shutout for the Growlers, his second of the series.
The teams meet once again in St. John’s for game five Saturday. If the Growlers win, they advance to the Kelly Cup Final. If the Everblades win, the series shifts back to Estero, FL for game six Tuesday and if needed, game seven Wednesday.