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Newfoundland Growlers' Appalachian tour wasn't in the original plans

The Newfoundland Growlers
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A travel schedule gone awry means Newfoundland team is making a 1,400-kilometre bus from South Carolina to Toronto

For the Newfoundland Growlers, most road trips aren’t literally what the name implies.

There’s more airspace than pavement involved.

The majority of the distance covered by the Growlers is by plane: St. John’s to Toronto, often followed by a connecting flight to an American destination. There will be busing, but normally only in whatever region Newfoundland’s ECHL games are scheduled …station to station stuff that usually isn’t too, too taxing.

Then it is reverse course and a return trek by plane through Toronto.

The Growlers’ current away swing isn’t quite like that.

They did start out last week with a flight to Toronto and another to Atlanta, where they began what will be a five-game tour. But the back half of the journey has become something else.

After playing in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday, the team left by bus Monday, travelling north to Brampton, Ont., where it takes on the Beast in two games next weekend.

That 1,400 kilometre bus ride — just about the equivalent of driving from St. John’s to Corner Brook and back — wasn’t in the original plan. But that plan has taken a beating this past week, none of it the fault of the Growlers, and this is just the latest revision.

Here’s what has transpired to date:

• Game 1 of the road trip was supposed to have been Wednesday in Atlanta, but travel delays, mostly because of wintery weather in Toronto, meant then couldn’t get into Georgia until late Wednesday night. That forced a postponement of a matchup against the Gladiators until Thursday, when the Growlers turned on the offensive faucets for an 8-2 victory.

• They left Atlanta right after the game for Charleston, arriving in that venerable South Carolina city in the wee hours of Friday morning. That same night, they took on the homestanding Stingrays and skated away with an overtime win.

• The third game of the trip was originally supposed to have been played Saturday in Greenville, S.C., against the Swamp Rabbits, but a mixup led to a double booking of Bon Secours Arena in Greenville and the contest was moved to Sunday afternoon.

• In one way, the date change in Greenville was a good thing because it meant the Newfoundland side avoided having to play three games in three nights in three different cities. However, it threw a wrench into the Growlers’ original travel plans, which was to fly back to St. John’s on Sunday and practise there during the week before leaving again for southern Ontario. Changing the team’s flights proved ultra-difficult logistically and prohibitive financially, leading to the switch in strategy and the direct bus trip to Brampton, which is being made over two days.

•The Growlers overnighted Monday in Morgantown, W.V., home of the University of West Virginia, hoping to arrive in time for the Mountaineers’ NCAA men’s basketball game against 18th-ranked Kansas State. Today, they complete their expedition through Appalachia, striking northward for Toronto, where they will work out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Mastercard Centre, practice facility of the parent Toronto Maple Leafs.

When they take on the Beast Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, the Growlers will be looking to extend a streak that has seen the team unbeaten in regulation in its last four games (4-0-2), including an OT loss to the Swamp Rabbits on Sunday.

That means Newfoundland (34-14-4) has collected five out of a possible six points through the first part of this trip, keeping it in third place overall in the 27-team ECHL, just three points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Florida Everblades and on top of the North Division, 10 points clear of the Adirondack Thunder.

“They’ve been successful all season, but for them to continue that success over the last number of days, despite everything that’s gone on, is a real testament to the guys,” said Growlers vice president of hockey operations Trevor Murphy, who happens to be travelling with the team.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

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