Call them the first-place Newfoundland Growlers.
Evan Neugold scored twice and Brady Ferguson and Giorgio Estephan each had a goal and an assist as the Growlers defeated the Reading Royals 6-4 Wednesday night at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, a result that moved Newfoundland into the official lead of the ECHL’s North Division.
Joseph Duszak and Marcus Power also scored for Newfoundland in its second win over Readings for the second time in as many nights.
The Growlers had come away with a 5-4 overtime victory against the Royals Tuesday at Mile One.
In that one, Duszak had scored the game-winner in extra-time completing a four-goal comeback for Newfoundland, which had trailed 4-1 midway through the third period. But in Wednesday’s rematch, played before a small crowd of 2,352, the Growlers led from start to finish, although the visitors kept things close to the very end.
Newfoundland took a 3-0 lead into the second period Wednesday before Ralph Cuddemi, the ECHL’s leading point-getter, goal-scorer and latest player of the month got Readng on the board. Power restored the Growlers’ three-goal lead later in the period, but before the second intermission, the Royals had closed the gap on goals by Max Willman and Trevor Gooch.
The score remained 4-3 until the last minute-and-a-half of the contest.
Neugold scored his second of the night at 18:34 on a long empty-netter, but less than 30 seconds later, with Royals goalie Felix Sandstrom still on the bench for an extra attacker, the Royals’ Eric Knodel scored to bring Reading back to within a single tally of tying the score.However, Estephan sealed the deal with another empty-net tally at 19:45.
With the win, Newfoundland (15-8-0) draws equal to Reading (13-6-4) in points, each with 30, but the Growlers get first place because of more wins. As well, Newfoundland has won five of is nine games against Reading this season.
Maksim Zhukov, who stopped 26 of 30 shots in the Growlers goal, was backed up by local senior hockey goalie A.J. Whiffen. Newfoundland’s other regular netminder, Angus Redmond, is on the sidelines after leaving Tuesday’s game following the first period.
The Growlers close up a four-game homestand with games against the Worcester Railers Friday and Saturday nights, both games with 7 p.m. start times.