As the calendar flips to February, NLU18MHL Playoff Semi-Finals are about to begin. Both series kick off in the Metro area as the Pinnacle Growlers host the Tri Pen Osprey in St. John's while the Central Impact visit the East Coast Blizzard in Mount Pearl.
The defending league champions, the Growlers, finished on top of the regular season standings once again with 23 wins and 47 points. With the Osprey advancing through the play-in round, it sets up a re-match of last season's championship series between the Osprey and Growlers.
The Growlers won the season series versus the Osprey 6 games to 2. One Growler win was in overtime, while one Osprey win was in a shootout. In their eight games against each other, the Pinnacle Growlers put up 33 goals, while Tri Pen scored 21 goals. The Growlers had the league's third best power play at 21.7%, but had the best penalty kill in the league at 84.4%. Tri Pen had the league's fourth best power play (20%) and fourth best penalty kill (79%).
The Osprey had two of the league's top three point scorers in the regular season and will look to those players to lead the attack. Nick Crosbie recorded a massive 49 assists and 59 points across 31 games, while Alex Crane had 30 goals and 56 points, and was one of only two players this season to record 30 goals. The top scorers for the Growlers over the season were Mark Corbett and Michael Skinner, who finished ninth and tenth in league scoring respectively. Corbett had 19 goals and 35 points, while Skinner had 28 assists and 35 points.
At the Glacier in Mount Peal, the second place East Coast Blizzard will host the Central Impact. The Blizzard finished the season with 45 points and 21 wins across 30 games, while the Impact racked up 16 wins and 35 points. The East Coast Blizzard won the season series 5 games to 3. Half of the eight games were decided by a single goal with three needing overtime or a shootout. Both teams recorded 24 goals in their eight head-to-head contests.
Even their special teams are very close. The Blizzard finished with the league's best power play at 22.8%, while Central was just barely behind at 22.5% efficiency. The Impact had the league's second best penalty kill at 83.2% while the Blizzard were third at 80%.
Both teams have plenty of scoring threats. Alex Kelloway of Central was fourth in league scoring with 26 goals and 50 points across 32 games. Just behind in fifth in league scoring, the Blizzard's Liam Noble led his team with 17 goals and 49 points in 30 games. Ryan Loveless scored 41 points, finished 7th in league scoring for the Blizzard, while Adam Pinsent was eighth in league scoring for the Impact with 29 assists and 40 points.
The Growlers host the Osprey for games 1 and 2 on Friday, February 3 and Saturday, February 4 at DF Barnes Arena in St. John's. The Blizzard host the Impact for games 1 and 2 on Saturday, February 4 and Sunday, February 5 at the Glacier in Mount Pearl.