Expansion Growlers eyeing championship trophy in inaugural season
St. John's awaiting victor of Western Conference final between Tulsa Oilers and Toledo Walleye
The Newfoundland Growlers are looking forward to playing in the ECHL's Kelly Cup final, starting Saturday, but Adam Pardy of Bonavista still carries a reminder from the team's last series: a blackened left eye, the result of a puck to the face during Friday's Eastern Conference-clinching win.
"I think it looks pretty good, doesn't it?" he joked Tuesday at Mile One Centre during practice. "I think it's probably broken, but it's gone down quite a bit, so it's all good."
The Growlers are in the middle of a week of recuperation and practice between their series defeat of the Florida Everblades last Saturday and the start of the Kelly Cup final this coming Saturday, against either the Tulsa Oilers or Toledo Walleye. The Oilers and the Walleye are playing a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Whoever the opponent, the Growlers have home ice advantage, with the first two games of the series at Mile One, on Saturday and Sunday night. If necessary, Game 6 and Game 7 would also be in St. John's.
Everybody's been contributing, and Garts has just been lights-out.- Adam Pardy
Coach John Snowden said the team is happy with its success in its inaugural season.
"We set out early in the season to get where we're at right now," he said. "The last series, I thought we did a lot of really good things. I thought we defended really well. I thought our goaltending was good. I thought offensively, we produced at the output what we wanted to produce. We beat a really good team that has been a very good team for a long time."
Pardy said the team has made it this far because of the work put in by everyone on the roster, and that goaltender Michael Garteig — who posted two straight shutouts as the Growlers finished off the Everblades — puts them in a position to win every night.
"Everybody's been's contributing, and Garts has just been lights out," he said. "He's given us a chance to win every game, and at times when we didn't play so well, he was right there."
Despite being an expansion team, the Growlers are on the verge of playing for the league trophy, but the coach says they're not satisfied just to have made it this far.
"We've set out for one goal, and that's to win a championship. We've got ourselves in this situation where we have a chance to play for it now, and now we've got to prepare."
Ready to go
Pardy said there will be a lot of energy for the start of the series.
"That's the fun part about being in the finals," he said. "The opportunity is sitting at your doorstep, and you've gotta grab it."
The puck drops on Game 1 at 7 p.m. on Saturday.