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Newfoundland ECHL club has won five of seven games in home of the Beast as playoff series shifts to Ontario
It would be more than a stretch to suggest the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ont., is a home away from home for the Newfoundland Growlers. But outside of Mile One Centre in St. John’s, there is no other rink in the ECHL that the Growlers know better or in which they’ve had more road success during their inaugural season.
Is that a good omen for a good team?
We should find out this week as the first-round Kelly Cup playoff series between Newfoundland and the Brampton Beast shifts to southern Ontario. But this much is certain: In addition to their sticks and skates, the Growlers will be packing momentum in the cargo hold of their St. John’s to Toronto flight this afternoon.
That’s after Newfoundland did what it needed to do over the weekend at Mile One, where it opened the best-of-seven series against the Beast with a pair of hard-fought 2-1 wins.
Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, Game 5, are in Brampton Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. If things go further than that, the teams will move back to St. John’s, where Games 6 and 7 would be played April 23 and 24.
The series is using a 2-3-2 format because of the travel distance involved. It’s a format that probably puts more pressure on the home side to win the first two games, which the Growlers did, but Newfoundland has to also have some positive feelings about playing in Brampton, where they won five of the seven regular-season meetings between the teams.
Overall, the Growlers were 8-5 against the Beast this season. That’s 10-5 if you count the weekend playoff results at Mile One, capped by Brady Ferguson’s heroics in Game 2 on Saturday night.
In that one, Newfoundland required overtime to get the job done, but Ferguson made quick work of things, fishing out a puck from the skates of Beast goaltender Etienne Marcoux before slipping it into the net for the game-winner just 18 seconds into the extra frame.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev had the other goal for the Growlers, giving the Russian teen and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick points in four straight games, stretching back to Newfoundland’s last couple of regular-season contests.
Daniel Ciampini was the only Beast player to beat Growlers’ netminder Michael Garteig, who made 22 saves.
In Friday’s series opener, Garteig had 32 saves in a first-star performance that saw him stop a second-period penalty shot by Brampton’s Artur Tianulin less than a minute before Newfoundland’s Scott Pooley scored the first goal of the series.
Combined, that gives Garteig a .964 save percentage, best among goalies in the early stages of the ECHL post-season. Nevertheless, on Saturday, much of the goaltending spotlight fell on Marcoux, who made 40 saves, including 17 in a scoreless first period when his teammates managed to direct just three shots at Garteig.
That helped lead to the Beast netminder being named first star in a losing effort, although it’s a sure bet the Growlers were more than happy to forgo that honour and take the win that puts them in the driver’s seat heading to the CAA Centre.
The Growlers-Beast survivor will face whichever team emerges from the other North Division semifinal, between the Manchester Monarchs and Adirondack Thunder. The Monarchs lead the Thunder 2-0 after a pair of road wins in Glens Falls, N.Y. … Announced attendance Saturday at Mile One was 3,927 after a full house of 6,307 showed up for Friday’s Game 1 … Newfoundland has to be wondering how much easier it might be to come by wins if its power play started clicking. So far against the Beast, the Growlers are zero-for-eight with the man advantage. On the other hand, Newfoundland penalty kill was a perfect six-for-six in the first two games … We’re not sure if its ever happened before, but Growlers leading scorer and team MVP Zach O’Brien picked up minor penalties in consecutive over the weekend. O’Brien, recently named the ECHL’s most sportsmanlike player for 2018-19, has been assessed just 10 minors over 323 regular-season games in his North American professional career …