ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The Newfoundland Growlers did the unthinkable Saturday night. In their inaugural season, a team full of rookies (twelve on the current roster) eliminated the Eastern Conference’s top team, the Florida Everblades, to advance to the Kelly Cup finals. The Growlers have relied heavily on those rookies throughout the playoffs, particularly in the series with the Everblades. Saturday’s game five was no different.
Saturday’s game five got off to a slow start, with no scoring until late in the second period, when rookie Scott Pooley netted his seventh of the postseason. Florida goaltender Callum Booth made a series of saves on Pooley, Sam Jardine, and Zach O’Brien before Pooley finally found an opening at 18:03. Newfoundland went into the second intermission with a one-goal lead.
Another rookie, Hudson Elynuik, gave the Growlers a 2-0 lead at 7:43 of the third period. Giorgio Estephan broke up a pass attempt by Everblades defenseman Derek Sheppard, and moved the puck up to Elynuik, who blasted it past Booth for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Estephan (yet another rookie) finished the scoring at 12:35 to sink Florida’s last hopes for a comeback. Elynuik sent a pass from behind the net, and Estephan was able to put the puck in from a nearly impossible angle to the left of Booth. Newfoundland netminder Michael Garteig was able to hold off Florida’s last attempts and recorded his third shutout of the postseason, all coming against the Everblades.
The Rookie Effect
The Growlers’ rookies have been an imposing presence in the playoffs thus far. They scored 15 of Newfoundland’s 20 goals in the series with Florida; four of the other five goals came from points leader O’Brien. Other than O’Brien with 24, the only Growlers to post double digit points in the 2019 playoffs have been rookies: Brady Ferguson (20), Estephan (17), Pooley (14), Marcus Power (12), and Josh Kestner (10).
The Waiting Game
The Growlers will have to wait until at least Monday to find out who their opponent will be in the final round. The Tulsa Oilers and Toledo Walleye are in the midst of the Western Conference finals, with the Walleye currently holding a 3-2 lead in the series. If the Oilers win Monday, the deciding game seven will be Wednesday.
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