It could have been finer in Carolina for the Newfoundland Growlers on Sunday.
The Growlers gave up three goals in a six-and-half minute span in the second period, and eventually lost 5-4 in overtime to the Greenville, S.C. Swamp Rabbits, snapping a three-game win streak for Newfoundland.
Despite the setback, the Growlers are unbeaten in regulation in six straight games (4-0-2), no less than five of which have gone into extra time. Newfoundland had two OT wins (including a 3-2 decision over the South Carolina Stingrays Friday), a shootout victory and two overtime losses in the stretch. Prior to Feb. 8, the Growlers had gone beyond three periods only four times all season.
Sunday’s matchup ended a compressed three-game swing through Georgia and South Carolina for Newfoundland, and while the team must appreciate having gained five points from three games played in less than four days (with in-between travel involved), you can expect there will be some disappointment over the result in Greenville, S.C.
For one thing, it was the Growlers (34-14-4), owners of the second-best record in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference, taking on the unaffiliated Swamp Rabbits (18-31-5), who occupy the conference basement. And Newfoundland carried a 3-1 lead into the second period.
Prior to Sunday, the Growlers had won all eight road contests in which they held a lead after the opening 20 minutes. But in this case, the Swamp Rabbits seemed to take no note of recent history, getting even-strength goals from Kamerin Nault and Johno May sandwiched around a power-play tally by Jake Bolton to grab a 4-3 lead just past the game’s midway point.
The outburst was enough to cause Newfoundland head coach John Snowden to replace starting goaltender Eamon McAdam with Michael Garteig, the first time this season the Growlers had changed netminders during a game.
Garteig stopped all seven shots he faced through the remainder of regulation. Meanwhile, Newfoundland got a tying goal on Derian Plouffe’s shorthanded marker at exactly 13 minutes of the third period.
That got the game into overtime, where the home side dominated, getting the only four shots of the extra frame, capped by a game-winner at 2:31 from defenceman Adam Larkin, first cousin to Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin,
Josh Kestner, Ryan Moore and Sam Babintsev had the first-period goals for the Growlers, while team leading score Zach O’Brien collected two assists.
McAdam gave up Greenville’s four regulation goals on 16 shots, but it was Garteig (11 shots, 10 saves) who was tagged with the loss.
Chris Neil faced 35 shots in the Greenville goal.
The Growlers finish off what is lengthy (especially in terms of distance) road trip with a pair of games in southern Ontario against the Brampton Beast next Saturday and Sunday.
The Growlers played Sunday without forward Brady Ferguson and defenceman Sam Jardine, both recalled to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies before the game … When illness meant scheduled referee Jarred Mitrano couldn’t work Sunday, the call of the game was shared by linesmen Ben Shiley and Scott Senger … Among those populating the Swamp Rabbits’ roster is former St. John’s IceCaps forward Austen Brassard … Despite the fact it took overtime to decide this one, all three stars were from Greenville: 1. Adam Larkin, 2. Kamerin Nault, 3. Johno May