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An exciting start to the Lions / Growlers series

The Lions began their quest for the Kelly Cup on Friday night with Game One of their best-of-seven North Division semi-final. The 2021-22 season was not an easy one for Trois-Rivières. Not only did the team have to prove itself as the new kid on the block in their inaugural ECHL season, the Lions also had to deal with a significant amount of player turnover: More than 80 players wore the Lions uniform this season. And the affects of COVID-19 also proved to be a burden in many ways. But the team triumphed against all this adversity and last week the first-year team qualified for postseason play.

The Lions’ opponents in the North semi-final are their Canadian rivals, the dangerous Newfoundland Growlers. The team from St. John’s finished the season with a 42-20-5 record, while Trois-Rivières were 34-29-6.

On Friday night, the Lions started the first period strongly playing at a fast pace with a lot of good skating. Trois-Rivières tested Growlers’ goaltender Keith Petruzzelli early and often, but it was Newfoundland’s Matt Hellickson who opened the scoring on a breakaway with an assist from Riley McCourt. Just 30 seconds later the Lions’ Shawn St-Amant scored to tie the score, and then slightly under three minutes after that Julien Nantel scored off a rebound to give the Lions the lead. After 20 minutes of play the Lions were ahead 2-1.

The Growlers’ Gordie Green scored two-and-a-half minutes into the second period when he beat Lions’ netminder Philippe Desrosiers, deadlocking the game between the two Canadian teams. Then it was Newfoundland forward Tyler Boland who gave the home side a 3-2 lead with a powerful shot that found its way to the back of the net. After the Growlers’ Orrin Centazzo made the score 4-2, the Lions’ Peter Abbandonato – back after a prolonged stint with the Laval Rocket – reduced the gap to 4-3 just before the end of the second period.

The Growlers' regular-season scoring leader, Zach O'Brien, found the back of Desrosiers' net at the start of the third period, increasing the Newfoundlanders’ lead to 5-3. Five minutes later, Trois-Rivières forward Olivier Archambault scored his first of the playoffs to tighten the score at 5-4. But the Growlers had not had their final say as Centazzo scored his second of the game, and then Ryan Chyzowski scored into an empty Lions’ net. Final score: Growlers-7, Lions-4.

The Growlers now take a 1-0 series lead into the teams’ second game, with puck drop at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.