There have been St. John’s pro hockey teams that have shown the home-ice killer instinct. But they have been in the minority.
Most have struggled to come up with back-to-back wins in those two-game series that make up the home schedule at Mile One Centre. They’ve looked like gangbusters one night and complete busts the next, unable to find that extra gear needed to keep up with a visiting team chafing from a loss and looking for two points and revenge in the rematch.
It’s too early to say the Newfoundland Growlers fall into that category. After all, the expansion team is still carrying that new-car smell just four games into its history. But the Growlers got a tough tutorial in the difficulties of the Mile One schedule matrix Wednesday night, with the Adirondack Thunder doing the schooling.
Twenty-four hours after lambasting the Thunder 7-3, the Growlers spent far too much time looking like genial hosts, letting the visitors tramp all over Newfoundland’s home ice for a goodly part of the contest en route to a 6-4 win.
Yes, the score was tied 2-2 midway through the contest, but still, it was impossible to call this an even contest at that point. The Growlers were just hanging in, and soon lost their grip, giving up three straight second-period goals, including tallies 68 seconds apart by Shane Conacher and Conor Riley.
And yes, the Growlers picked up the pace in the third, getting a goal from Brady Ferguson at 15:18 and another by Zach O’Brien, his first of the season, in the last minute with goalie Michael Garteig on the bench for an extra attacker. But the urgency proved too late and too little to make up for a second period that saw Adirondack own a 23-6 shot advantage.
As if to emphasize the point, Conacher — the game’s first star — produced a hope-snuffing empty-netter in the waning seconds.
Matt Salhany, a forward who wears No. 2, scored the first couple of goals for the Thunder (2-1-0), with Shane Eiserman getting the other for Adirondack, which scored on its lone power-play chance and dealt successfully with all three Newfoundland man-advantage opportunities, getting a shorthanded marker from Salhany in the bargain.
Ryan Moore and Matt Bradley had the other goals for the Growlers (2-2-0).
Garteig made 30 saves, while Alex Sakellaropoulos stopped 28 shots at the other end.
Newfoundland head coach Ryane Clowe was not happy with his side’s response Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Everglades, the night after the Growlers had won their inaugural contest, beating the Everglades by the same score.
He’ll have more reason to be grumpy with the Growlers today, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity for up-close expression of his feelings. The team leaves today on its first-ever road trip, an eight-game, 18-day marathon beginning Friday night against the Manchester Monarchs.