A couple of newcomers — a high-profile rookie and a goaltender who wasn’t expected to be with the team two weeks ago —helped the Newfoundland Growlers to their first win of the new ECHL season Saturday night, a 3-2 overtime decision against the Reading Royals.
First-year defenceman Mac Hollowell scored 2:51 into the extra frame and Patrick Munson made 39 saves it in the victory Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
The Royals, who had defeated the defending champion Growlers 6-5 in the teams’ season-opener Friday at Mile One, had goals from Matthew Gaudreau and Frank Dichiara to lead 2-0 with less than a minute remaining in the second period of Saturday’s rematch. However, another new face for the Growlers, forward Aaron Luchuk, got the home side on the scoresheet with 47 seconds left in the middle frame.
Newfoundland’s Matt Bradley scored for the second night in a row, at 12:37 of the third period, to tie the score at 2-2 and that’s now it remained through the remainder of regulation.
The Growlers dominated in overtime, outshooting the visitors 5-0, largely because Newfoundland was on a power play for almost the full opening two minutes of the extra session, the result of a delay of game penalty assessed to Reading with 19 seconds left in the third.
The Royals did kill off the penalty, but just about a minute after its expiration, forward Colt Conrad, yet another Growlers rookie, drove to the net, drawing defenders to him, then fed Hollowell who fired a shot from the top of the right circle to beat Reading goaltender Felix Sandstrom.
Hollowell finished the night with a plus-three rating.
A fourth-round draft pick of the parent Toronto Maple Leafs who was a first-round OHL all-star last season, Hollowell is one of three Newfoundland players on entry-level NHL contracts. Luchuk, a second-year pro acquired by the Leafs in a multi-player trade with the Ottawa Senators over the summer, and Joseph Duszak, another rookie rearguard, are the others.
Munson only joined the Growlers Oct 1 to fill a training-camp vacuum created when rookie Ian Scott, expected to be Newfoundland’s No. 1 netminder, was injured.
Rookie Maksim Zhukov got the start Friday, allowing the six Reading goals on 24 shots, and on Saturday, Growlers head coach John Snowden went with Munson, a Minnesotan and product of the NCAA Division 1 system
He responded with a first-star performance in his first North American professional start; the 24-year-old Munson had turned pro with Nottingham of the top league in Great Britain last season.
Luchuk, who had an assist and was plus two, was named second star. Gaudreau was the choice as third star of the game, played before a crowd of just 3,700,
Saturday’s match-up was the middle game of a three-game series between Newfoundland and Reading that wraps up Tuesday night at Mile One.