Despite roster challenges, Newfoundland Growlers still in first place: Report from the Rock
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Dylan Murphy20 days ago
Just a few games shy of the midway point of their season, the Newfoundland Growlers sit on top of the ECHL’s North Division with 47 points and a 23-9-1 record. One of the keys to success for the team comes down to three members of the Growlers’ forward group lead the league in term of points per game for everyday players. Orrin Centazzo and Pavel Gogolev are scoring at a 1.5 points per game rate and Zach O’Brien, the league’s leading scorer, is producing at a 1.8 points per game rate with an astounding 54 points in 30 games.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Growlers since our last update on them, the team has had to deal with some holes in their lineup due to a number of call-ups to the AHL, which is something that any team in a developmental league will have to deal with at some point. Matteo Pietroniro, the Growlers’ most dependable defender last season, has seemingly graduated full-time to the AHL, as has Tommy Miller, who only joined the team this season, but quickly became one of Eric Wellwood’s most trusted blueliners.
Miller stepped right into an elevated role on the Marlies’ top pair when he was called up in late November until an injury knocked him out of the lineup. He has been spotted at practice recently, but has not dressed for a game, so it’s still unclear if he’ll remain with the Marlies for the season or reunite with Michael Joyaux on the Growlers’ top pair.
The list of other players who were called up to spend some time in the American League include Orrin Centazzo, Zach O’Brien, Zach Solow, as well as a number of other AHL-contracted forwards during the ECHL’s holiday break. Manitoba Moose loanees Tyler Boland and Isaac Johnson, both key parts of the Growlers’ top-six in the early going of the season, were called up to the AHL and of the two, only Johnson has been returned as of this week.
Despite most of the top players getting call-ups at different points in the season, and the Growlers’ front office needing to bolster their lineup of usable bodies by collecting defencemen on ECHL contracts like Infinity Stones, the team has continued to find success, bottom-of-the-depth-chart additions on defence like Matt Sredl and Adam Samuelsson (son of Ulf) have been at least serviceable and dependable enough in limited roles.
It was the assignment of Pavel Gogolev that kept the Growlers from backsliding too much (at least offensively-speaking) he has picked up 29 points in 19 games since being assigned to Newfoundland
Between the pipes, Dryden McKay had a stretch of games where he struggled mightily. His save percentage currently sits at an .885 and his goals against average shot way up to above 3.5, but his most recent outings have been a bit of a reset and a return to form where he looked more like the goalie from earlier in the season. Luke Cavallin, meanwhile, has taken the reins as the starter, at least for now, with a 13-4 record and a .922 save percentage which places him tied for third in the league in wins and fifth in the league in save percentage. And now there’s a third member of the goaltending group, one very familiar to fans of every level of the Leafs organization.
Keith Petruzzelli made a short-term return to the Growlers on the road in December, which was treated like somewhat of a conditioning loan. He was re-assigned to the team this week and last night, he made his return to the Mary Brown’s Centre and pitched a 36 save performance in a 5-2 win over the Worcester Railers.
“I try to just have a good day every day no matter where I am,” said Petruzzelli after the game. “I got off the plane with a smile on my face, it’s great to be back, great to see the fans and hopefully I made ’em proud.”
Petruzzelli, who signed an NHL contract in November, also took a moment to speak about his brief experience with the Leafs.
“It’s just motivation you know? You see how it is up there and how, for lack of a better word, how awesome it is. Just to be sniffing that lineup, and being around those guys, the staff.. it’s all motivation for me to keep my head down, keep working hard and never have a bad day.”
Petruzzelli and the Growlers are back in action at home this weekend and Report from the Rock will be back in about a month for another check-in with the Toronto Maple Leafs ECHL affiliate, and for more words on the Growlers, you can follow along with my game-by-game recaps on Substack.
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