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Netminder makes 28 saves after being reassigned from Marlies, special teams make big contributions in 2-0 victory
Much of the pre-game buzz was about a hot-shot prospect down from the Toronto Marlies on a conditioning assignment.
In the end, it was another player just sent from the Marlies — albeit one much more familiar to Newfoundland Growlers fans — who led the way as the Growlers downed the Maine Mariners 2-0 Wednesday night to extend their ECHL winning streak to six games.
Prior to a recall to the AHL Marlies earlier this month, goaltender Michael Garteig had been a rock for Newfoundland, starting 24 of the team’s first 31 games. Wednesday night in Portland, Me., in his first game back with the Growlers, the 27-year proved to be as solid as ever, making 28 saves for his third ECHL shutout of the season.
Giorgio Estephan scored what would stand as the game-winning goal on a first-period power play and Bradley Ferguson added an empty-netter in the final minute as Newfoundland reached the halfway point of its inaugural ECHL schedule with a 26-11-1 record.
Garteig, Wednesday’s first star, was one of six players assigned to the Growlers in advance of Wednesday’s matchup of ECHL expansion teams.
Among of those half dozen sent down was 19-year-old defenceman Timothy Liljegren, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round draft pick in 2017, and who suited up Wednesday in his first game since suffering an ankle injury in an AHL game in early December. The young Swede’s stay was designed to be short — he was set to return to Toronto today. However, he left Wednesday’s contest after an awkward fall late in the third period and did not return. There was no immediate word on how it might affect the organization’s plans.
Goalie Eamon McAdam, defenceman Kristians Rubins and forwards Hudson Elynuik and Griffen Molino were the others sent to the Growlers. All were dressed for Wednesday’s game, with McAdam the backup to Garteig, giving Newfoundland the goaltending tandem it had briefly in October before McAdam was promoted to Toronto.
Besides Garteig’s goaltending, special teams were a big factor Wednesday.
While the league’s fifth-best power play delivered the only goal the Growlers would need, the penalty kill, also hanging around the top five in the league, knocked down four Mariners opportunities, including one midway through the third period when Hudson Elynuik was cited for boarding.
Other than that minor penalty, it was pretty much an exemplary period for Newfoundland, which adopted the “best defence is a good offence” motto by outshooting Maine 14-7 over the last 20 minutes and finally getting the insurance tally from Ferguson, who had also assisted on Estephan’s goal.
The game’s second star, Brandon Halverson, made 27 saves for the Mariners (20-17-1), who had won their first-ever game against the Growlers, but have lost the last five head-to-head matchups.
The game was first of what is officially a five-game road trip for Newfoundland, which takes on the Railers in Worcester, Mass., Friday and Saturday night. Then it’s a full week off as the league has its all-star break (Estephan will be the Growlers representative at the all-star game in Toledo) before finishing up with a pair of games late in month in Brampton, Ont., versus the Beast.
The arrival of all those players from the AHL affiliate led to a number of corresponding moves by the Growlers on Wednesday.
Forwards Ryan Moore and Matt Bradley were placed on the regular reserve list, while defenceman Anthony Cortese and centre Maxim Mizyurin were slotted on injured reserve.
Goaltenders Brad Barone and Eric Levine, who had split the six games during the Growlers’ recent 5-1 homestand, were released and both were expected to return to their Southern Professional league teams if they went unclaimed by other ECHL teams.