The south rises again
It took a while for the Newfoundland Growlers to put together any kind of a winning streak.
But they seem to have found the knack.
A pair of red-hot Newfoundland Growlers who hail from the U.S. Sun Belt, carried the first-year ECHL squad to its fourth straight win Wednesday night ECHL rookie scoring leader Brady Ferguson, of Lewisville, Texas had a goal and two assists and linemate Josh Kestner, from Hunstville, Ala., extended his point streak to six games with a tally and a helper as the Growlers downed the Worcester Railers 5-2 at Mile One Centre Wednesday night.
It was a fourth straight win for Newfoundland (9-5-0) which had begun its life in the ECHL by alternating wins and losses for the first 10 games.
But the Growlers have ripped that pattern to shreds, taking advantage of three straight matchups with the Railers (3-7-0).
Last weekend in Worcester, Mass. Newfoundland won 5-2 before moving back to St. John’s for a four-game homestand that began Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over the Railers.
Propulsion for the winning streak — offensive-wise at least — has come from the all-rookie line of Ferguson, Kestner and Giiorgio Estephan.
Ferguson’s three points Wednesday gives him multiple points in four straight contests and increases his total to 18 points, best on the Growlers and tops amongst all first-year-players in the ECHL.
Ferguson’s eighth goal of the season, the game-winner Wednesday, came late in the second period and just 23 seconds after a power-play tally by Newfoundland’s J.J. Picnic, his first goal since being assigned to Newfoundland by the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Ferguson, who played NCAA hockey with Robert Morris University outside Pittsburgh, now has five goals and seven assists in the past six games, while Kestner, who played in the NCAA for his hometown University of Alabama-Huntsville squad, has seven goals and three helpers in his past seven starts.
The Ferguson goal came with some controversy as it was scored after Worcester starting goalie Mitch Gillam had been bowled over during a collision with Estephan, who had been checked into the netminder by Worcester rearguard Mike Cornell.
No penalty was called on the play.
After a long time on the ice, Gillam — who had made 22 saves to that point — hobbled off and didn’t return. Evan Buitenhuis took over in the Worcester goal.
In all, the Growlers launched 33 shots ant Gillam and Buitenhuis.
At the other end, Mario Culina was far less busy. Making his first action at Mile One, Culina faced 17 shots as he picked up his second win in as many starts.
Marcus Power and Estephan had the other Newfoundland markers, both coming in the third period. Estephan’s was an empty-netter was his team-leading ninth of the season, set up by Ferguson.
Nick Bligh and Woody Hudson replied for the Railers, who have to be glad to be done with the Growlers for a while.
Next up for Newfoundland is the Manchester Monarchs, who visit Mile One for games Friday and Saturday nights.
Wednesday’s three stars: 1. Ferguson; 2. Growlers defenceman Steffan Leblanc; 3. Gillam … Announced attendance was 2,709 … Piccinich’s goal means Newfoundland has scored on the power play in five straight games … Overall, the Growlers were 1-for4 on the power play, while the Railers were 1-for-five. Six of the games nine power-plays came in the first period, which also saw a pair of five-0n-threes, one for each team. However, despite all that man-advantage time, the opening frame was scoreless …