The Newfoundland Growlers have only played one game since their last home stand ended on December 12th, an overtime loss to the Adirondack Thunder on New Year’s Eve. Despite that lack of game action, there’s been a flurry of activity around the team, and with about 10 days to go until their next scheduled game, let’s try and make some sense of it all.
First and foremost, due to the ongoing situation with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, a number of games have obviously been postponed or cancelled outright. To date, the Growlers have seen 10 games get postponed, of those, four home games (January 7th, 8th, 12th, and 14th) have been cancelled. Two other home games, originally scheduled for January 9th and 15th have been rescheduled for March 13th and Febuary 13th, aligning those games with previously scheduled visits for the opponents in those games.
On the road game side of things, two planned December games against Adirondack have been rescheduled for Febuary 22nd and 23rd. Additionally, two games against Trois-Rivieres, originally slated for the post-Christmas break have been rescheduled for Febuary 27th and March 17th.
It remains to be seen if any further games will be affected, particularly here at home, where the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government has mandated that anyone entering the province must self-isolate for five days. A restriction such as this, should it continue into next month when the team is next slated to play at the Mary Brown’s Centre, could seriously complicate the Growlers’ ability to play those home games, so here’s hoping that those restrictions are lifted in due time.
The Incredible Hulk said it best in the film Avengers: Endgame: “These are confusing times.”
Over the extended holiday break, the Growlers saw a number of players get recalled to the AHL, all of whom were originally assigned to the team from either the Toronto Marlies or Manitoba Moose. The Marlies have since returned goalie Keith Petruzzelli, defencemen Riley McCourt, Matteo Pietroniro, and Brennan Kapcheck, and forwards Zach O’Brien, and Jeremy McKenna. Forward Gordie Green remains with the Marlies for now.
On the Manitoba side of the equation, none of their players have been loaned back to Newfoundland as of yet, and they even added an extra player from the Growlers’ ranks by signing goalie Evan Cormier to a Professional Try Out contract. He has played in four games so far and posted a 3-0-1 record with a .930 save percentage.
The Growlers signed forwards Alexandre Goulet, Nathan Ouellete, Nick Pastorious, CJ Hayes and a familiar face in Evan Neugold. Of that group, only Hayes remains a Growler, the other players were released from their contracts. In Goulet and Ouellete’s case, neither player suited up for the Growlers before being released.
Breaking news this morning is that the Growlers have signed goaltender Brett Epp out of the USports circuit. The 24-year-old Edmonton native joins the team after appearing in six games with Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario. In his six games played this season, he has a 4-2 record and a .915 save percentage.
Our last roster move is that Growlers defenceman Garrett Johnston has signed a PTO with the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL team in Abbotsford. By my count, the Growlers have two goalies, five defenders, and 10 forwards on the roster right now, so that’ll be a situation to keep an eye on over the next week or so in advance of the team’s road trip to Kansas City.
And one final note: the Growlers’ head coach, Eric Wellwood, has been selected as one of the coaches of the ECHL All-Star Classic, which will be live streamed on Monday, January 17th. The Growlers had the highest winning percentage in the Eastern Conference through the week of December 22nd, which was the cutoff for the league’s decision.
Per an ECHL release on the All Star Classic:
“In this year’s All-Star event, the host Jacksonville Icemen will take on a team of ECHL All-Stars representing the other teams in the League, as well as feature several Skills events which will count as a goal towards the winning Player’s team score. Each team will also have a representative from the Premier Hockey Federation and Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. The game will air LIVE exclusively on NHL Network and be streamed via FloHockey on Monday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET “