Through games 17-21 of the Newfoundland Growlers season, the team’s early-season success gave way to their first taste of adversity.
This stretch of games marked the Growlers’ first losing record for one of these articles, they went 1-3-1 during this homestand back in Newfoundland. In one of those losing efforts, the team put up a franchise record 52 shots but ultimately lost due to some shady reffing and a suspiciously long video review on a goal by James Melindy that ultimately was waved off. When asked what he says to the team after a game like that, coach Eric Wellwood chuckled and said “I say that we won, it doesn’t feel that way but (games like this) are why you don’t always judge the scoreboard.”
Amazingly, despite the skid, the Growlers remain in 1st place overall both in the North Division and the ECHL in general (though the Western Conference-leading Idaho Steelheads are only two points back at time of writing).
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“It didn’t seem like our game plan changed, we were still able to execute and play the way we have all season. A lot of guys stepped up and played fantastic, and as a staff, we’re glad to go through (a bit of adversity)… Even though we’ve lost four of our last five, I’ve really liked our game,” said Wellwood on the less than successful homestand that saw the team’s depth challenged in more ways than one.
One thing worth mentioning through this stretch is that the Saturday night game on Dec. 4th featured the annual NTV Teddy Toss and though the crowd was somewhat limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, the people of St. John’s delivered, check it out for yourself:
In terms of individual performance, Zach O’Brien continued his dominant return to the ECHL, with another five points in these games. And due to a number of injuries and a lack of bodies due to call-ups (more on that below) defenceman Riley McCourt moved up to join the forwards on Dec. 11th and played very well, picking up 2 goals and an assist in the first two games he’s played at forward in several years.
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“When you get the chance to play forward it’s obviously fun and exciting. Somethin’ different and I had a lot of fun doing it,” said McCourt following the team’s lone win in these past five games.
There’s just one other story that needs to be told from this run of games, and it is the story of the defenceman who was signed to replace McCourt on the Growlers blue line, but the story of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Dan Cadigan is one that deserves its own piece, so keep an eye out for that one over the next couple of days.
In terms of injuries and roster transactions, this was a busy stretch. between the games on Dec. 4th and 10th, defencemen Matteo Pietroniro and Brennan Kapcheck were called up to the Toronto Marlies. The duo had been playing together on the top pairing for the Growlers for most of the season up to that point. Following the homestand’s conclusion, forwards Issac Johnson and Bobby Lynch were recalled to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and Zach O’Brien was just called up to the Marlies. On the injury side of things, Nathan Noel remains out with a broken hand, but he is inching closer to a return. Due to injuries sustained in-game throughout the homestand, both Marcus Power and Orrin Centazzo are listed as day-to-day.
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The Growlers were scheduled to be back in action on the road starting this Friday, in their last slate of games before the Christmas break, however, due to an ongoing COVID-19 situation in Adirondack, those games have been postponed and as of now, have not been rescheduled.
The Newfoundland Growlers now face an extended Christmas break and will be back in action on Dec. 29th in Trois-Rivieres.