Welcome to the first in-season Report from the Rock, we’ll be recapping the headlines from the Newfoundland Growlers’ first five games of the 2021-22 season and analyzing some key members of the squad to keep an eye on.
As you see in the headline, the biggest story coming out of Newfoundland is that the team hasn’t lost a single game so far and a big part of that is the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Month, Keith Petruzzelli, who put up two 35-save performances in his first appearances with the club. The 22-year old added a third win last night in the home opener to start off the month of November on the right foot.
Taking a look at the skaters now, forwards Zach O’Brien, Ryan Chyzowski and Marc Johnstone, as well as defencemen Noel Hoefenmayer, Brennan Kapcheck, and captain James Melindy have appeared in all five games, which is impressive considering the minutes these players have logged and the fact that the team’s opening road trip included games on three consecutive nights.
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O’Brien has picked up right where he left off when the Growlers’ 2019-20 season ended, he’s a point-per-game player so far with one goal and four assists. I expected nothing less from one of the Super Newfs and we’ll see where the season takes him.
Chyzowski is an extremely interesting prospect assigned here from the Marlies. He has four points in the five games and has cemented himself as a mainstay in the Growlers top two at the center position. He sees the ice extremely well, has the foot speed and the hands of an excellent pro in the making.
Johnstone is a key part of the Growlers’ near-perfect penalty-killing unit. He started the season as the extra forward on opening night and has since moved up to the top-six, very deservedly so. To my eyes, he’s been one of the most defensively responsible Growlers so far, and has contributed on the score sheet, including an assist on a shorthanded goal in the third game, one of five shorthanded goals scored by the PK unit so far.
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Kapcheck is a player I’m very interested in. He’s one of the smallest players on the team (5’9 and 160 pounds) but punches way above his weight class, sometimes literally, as he’s shown he’s not afraid to drop the gloves despite being the smaller player in every after-whistle scrum. He has a fire underneath him that you just love to see, has a nose for the net and has been extremely steady defensively. I’ll be keepig a close eye on him as the season progresses.
Last, but certainly not least, the team’s leading scorer through these games: Noel Hoefenmayer. One of, if not the, most intriguing prospects on the team, Hoefenmayer has been playing great in all situations, with 3 goals and 3 assists to start the year, including both of the power play goals that they’ve scored so far. I’ve been especially impressed with his defensive play so far, given the reputation he arrived with as an offensive defenseman who struggles in his own end. On a team full of bright spots, Hoefenmayer has been shining the brightest so far.
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Speaking broadly about the team as a whole, this is as close to a perfect performance as you can get. From top to bottom, every member of this team knows their role and it seemingly doesn’t matter which players Eric Wellwood swaps in or out of the lineup, every man plays their role expertly. There are areas that can improve, but it’s still very early in the season and I have no doubt they will strive for even greater performances as the season rolls on.
The Growlers will continue their first homestand at CBS Arena tonight, November 6th, and through next weekend, I’ll be checking in with another report once we hit the ten games played mark, and sometime in the next week, keep an eye out for a feature on my experiences inside the CBS Arena for the first Growlers home game in over 600 days.
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