ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Newfoundland Growlers and Manchester Monarchs traveled to St. John’s for game six Monday night. For the second consecutive game, the Monarchs were fighting to stay alive, while the Growlers were trying to finish them off. With a win, the Growlers would advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Growlers wasted no time getting on the board. Marcus Power brought the puck into the Monarchs zone, but was knocked off it by Manchester’s Nic Pierog. Brady Ferguson was right behind him, and picked up the puck, passed ahead to Zach O’Brien, who beat Monarchs goaltender Charles Williams at the 4:52 mark of the opening frame.
O’Brien added another later in the period when he deflected in Garrett Johnston‘s shot from the blue line.
The Growlers added another, only seconds later, at 17:41. After being denied by Williams once already on the play, Matt Bradley made sure he capitalized the second time around. After the initial save, Scott Pooley passed the puck to James Melindy at the blue line. His shot was redirected by Bradley and into the net, very much like the O’Brien goal 21 seconds prior. The period ended with Newfoundland in a comfortable position, leading 3-0.
After assisting on O’Brien’s second goal in the first period, Johnston picked up a goal of his own early in the second. He skated into the Monarchs zone with Bradley, the two exchanging passes before Johnston wristed the puck past Williams.
Newfoundland added another less than two minutes later. Ferguson passed the puck up to Power, waiting at the net. Williams moved to block the right side of his net, and Power patiently passed across the crease to O’Brien, who easily tapped the puck into the open net to complete the hat trick.
That goal ended Williams’ night; he was replaced by Cole Kehler, his only action of the postseason. Kehler was perfect in his appearance, making 13 saves on 13 shots.
The Monarchs were able to get one back in the third. In the midst of a scramble at the Growlers net, netminder Michael Garteig became entangled with teammates Adam Pardy and J.J. Piccinich. While the three were down on the ice, the Monarchs didn’t relent. Michael Doherty kept poking at the puck but couldn’t get it past Pardy laying across the goal line. Tony Cameranesi was able to skate in and put the puck in the net to end Garteig’s shutout bid.
Monday was Johnston’s 24th birthday, and what a birthday it was! The rookie picked up his first pro playoff goal, as well as an assist. He also led both teams in +/- with a +4.
O Boy O’Brien
Newfoundland’s O’Brien is currently on a six-game goal-scoring streak and an eight-game point streak. In the postseason, he has racked up a total of 18 points, third in the league. He leads the league in shots on goal with 61.
With the win, the Growlers move on to face the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference final. The teams met twice in Newfoundland to begin the season, with each team winning a game, both by scores of 3-2.