If Michael Garteig keeps up with the pace he’s set so far through the early part of the Newfoundland Growlers’ schedule, he’ll have played 60 games by the end of the 2018-19 regular season.
Of course that’s just a mathematical projection. There’s plenty of time between now and the middle of April for circumstances and variables to have their say, but it gives you an idea of how much work Garteig has been putting in for the league-leading Growlers.
It’s work that was recognized Wednesday when he was named the league’s Warrior Hockey goaltender of the month for November. Garteig went 6-1-1 in eight starts for Newfoundland (16-6-1) during the month, with two shutouts, a 2.25 goals-against average and a save percentage of .932.
A 27-year-old native of Prince George, B.C., Garteig leads the ECHL with 12 wins, 1,080 minutes played and 552 saves, is tied for fifth with a .925 save percentage and is 12th with a 2.50 goals-against average.
In all, he’s started and finished 18 of Newfoundland’s 23 games. Another half-dozen starts and Garteig will have equalled his entire number of appearances last season with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.
So it’s new territory for Garteig … sort of. He started almost every game for Quinnipiac University in the last three years of his NCAA Division One college career. And he once saw in action in 48 of 60 games for his junior A club, the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.
But this is the pros, with a 76-game schedule, not the 40 to 48 for a college team. And the travel at this level involves many more days and miles than in the ECAC.
So there’s a bit of self-discovery going on for Garteig, who says he won’t be asking for any days off despite his workload.
“I don’t know if there is any goaltender in the world who would do that,” he said.
The yearning to play as much as possible was strengthened over the first half of last season, when he spent a lot of time on call-ups to the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets (he was signed to an AHL deal with Utica), but didn’t play any games.
“I think I might have got in three (ECHL) games before Christmas,” said Garteig. “When you are on an AHL or even an NHL contract, you can end up being a bit of a yo-yo — up and down. I know I had a lot of games to make up during the second half of last season.”
The Growlers are back in action Friday night at Mile One Centre, where they take on the Reading Royals. There’s an excellent chance Garteig will be between the pipes for a 19th time — we already know he won’t be looking for hiatus — and assistant coach John Snowden, who has been guiding the Growlers while Ryane Clowe deals with medical issues, says it’s apparent the goaltender can handle a workload.
But could he do it for 60 games, which represents about 80 per cent of Newfoundland’s regular-season total?
“I think that’s a lot of games,” said Snowden. “I think we have a very good goalie behind him in Mario (Culina) right now and I know the team is confident and comfortable with whoever we have in there.”
Garteig isn’t the only Growler receiving recognition from the league. Forward Scott Pooley was named the ECHL player of the week after scoring four goals and adding an assist pair of Newfoundland victories against the visiting Brampton Beast last week. He has 21 points, including 10 goals, in 23 games … For the second time this season, the Growlers have cut defenceman Cody Smith. In six total games, Smith had no points and a plus-four rating for Newfoundland …