They suffer three straight one-goal losses, two of them in shootouts, in weekend trip to New England, but in mostly meaningless games
Usually, you wouldn’t like it if your team lost three straight games heading into the playoffs. Then again, you might be able to forgive the Newfoundland Growlers, who dropped a trio of consecutive one-goal decisions — two by shootouts — over the weekend to close their inaugural ECHL regular season.
The Growlers played the finales without a whole lot of incentive, except to perhaps stay healthy in preparation for a first-round playoff series against the Brampton Beast, a best-of-seven matchup that starts with games next Friday and Saturday nights at Mile One Centre.
Before leaving for a New England weekend, Newfoundland (43-21-8) had already clinched first place in the North Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They did have one standings-related carrot, third place overall in the league, which they secured with a single point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Manchester Monarchs Friday night.
On Saturday in Worcester, Mass., the Growlers built up a 3-1 lead but eventually lost 4-3 to the Railers. On Sunday afternoon in Portland, Me., they fell behind 3-0 to their expansion cousins, the Maine Mariners, but rallied to tie the game and send it beyond regulation, only to lose in a shootout again.
The weekend saw plenty of lineup shuffling by head coach John Snowden, who brought players in and out of reserve status, and made the most of recent arrivals, including 18-year centre Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who became the answer to a couple of trivia questions — “the youngest Growler to” type — when he picked up an assist Friday and scored his first professional goal on Saturday. The young Russian, a third-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs last June, had originally joined the AHL’s Toronto Marlies after completing his major junior season with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. However, Der-Arguchintsev didn’t suit up with the Marlies before being reassigned to the Growlers.
Also seeing action on the weekend was goaltender Eric Levine, back for a second stint with Newfoundland in 2018-19. He got the start Saturday in Worcester.
Earlier this season, Levine was claimed on waivers by the Growlers from the Fort Wayne Komets, but eventually went back to Fort Wayne on another waiver claim. But when the Maple Leafs made a late-season change to their goaltending corps, promoting Michael Hutchinson from the Marlies to replace a beleaguered Garrett Sparks as Frederik Andersen’s backup, Eamon McAdam was promoted from Newfoundland to AHL Toronto.
That left the Growlers looking for a netminder in addition to Michael Garteig, and they once again brought in Levine on a timely waiver claim from the Komets, who had to make space when former St. John’s IceCap Zach Fucale was sent down from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
Garteig was the Newfoundland goalie in both the shootout losses on the weekend.
Shootouts in Portland are nothing new to the Growlers, who earlier in the season lost to Maine in one that went 18 rounds.
Wade Murphy, who scored the winner for the Mariners in that marathon, did so again Sunday. But this one ended much sooner. Greg Chase scored on Maine’s first attempt and Murphy, the last of six designated shooters — three for each side — nailed down the victory for Maine (37-32-3), which finishes two points out of the playoffs.
Zach O’Brien had a goal and two assists for Newfoundland, which trailed 3-0 before Scott Pooley beat Mariners’ netminder Chris Nell with about seven minutes left in the second. Evan Neugold had the other marker for the Growlers.
Ty Ronning, with two goals, and Taylor Cammarata scored first-period goals for the Mariners, who got 42 saves from Nell.
Garteig faced 25 shots in the Newfoundland net.
The winner of the Growlers-Beast playoff series will take on the winner of the other North Division semifinal, which features Manchester and the Adirondack Thunder … O’Brien’s three points Sunday’s padded his team-leading scorer total (28-40-68) and capped off what’s been a memorable week and a half for the St. John’s native, who was named the Growlers’ MVP, and top forward, an ECHL second-team all-star and the league’s most sportsmanlike player. The 26-year-old had just six penalty minutes in 53 ECHL games … Pooley’s goal was his 31st of the season, which gave him the team title in that department, just ahead of fellow rookie Brady Ferguson, who has 30 and didn’t play Sunday … Growlers’ defenceman and captain James Melindy did not play any shifts after blocking a shot early in the third period Sunday. While he didn’t see any more ice time, Melindy did remain on the edge of the Newfoundland bench, certainly close enough to be heard by officials: he picked up a 10-minute misconduct late in contest … Despite O’Brien’s’ performance in Portland, Newfoundland was shut out of the three star selection. Sunday In fact, the Growlers haven’t had a single star selected in their last three shootout setbacks, all in away rinks …