Ten games into their first ECHL season, the Newfoundland Growlers were a .500 team with a 5-5 record and they were struggling to get on a winning run.
Then, the Growlers ran off six straight victories and, in a sense, never looked back as they moved ahead to an eventual Kelly Cup championship.
The Growlers, at least those back with the team in 2019-20, might be looking back on that time today. Because Newfoundland is once again a .500 team with a 5-5 record.
If the Growlers are to replicate what happened this time last year and get on a winning run, it would have to start this weekend as they open a four-game home stand against the Atlanta Gladiators (4-3-0).
The Gladiators, an affiliate of the Boston Bruins, play tonight and Saturday (7 p.m. start times) in their first-ever visit to St. John’s and Mile One Centre. However, this isn’t the first-ever meeting between the two teams. They met last season in Georgia, with Newfoundland romping to an 8-2 victory.
The Growlers had no problem scoring that February night and they have had no trouble scoring this fall; their 43 tallies is tied for the most in the 26-team ECHL. But they’ve allowed 37, which puts Newfoundland in the bottom third of the league.
Perhaps new goaltender Angus Redmond can help address that. The acquisition of Redmond, on loan from the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, was just one major roster move this week. The other saw Newfoundland lose league-leading scorer Aaron Luchuk and fellow forward Giorgio Estephan, who is tied for fifth most points in the ECHL, on recall to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. It was a two-for-one deal, coming in conjunction with winger Zach O’Brien being returned to the Growlers after his latest stint with the Marlies.
They’re called the Atlanta Gladiators, but the team (which was once known as the Gwinnett Gladiators) is actually located in Duluth, Ga., a little over 45 kilometres from Atlanta. Geographically, it would be the equivalent of a team being located in Holyrood, but using St. John’s in its name … The Gladiators’ leading scorer is pro rookie Samuel Asselin (7G, 6A) , who played in back-to-back Memorial Cups, winning with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2018, and finishing his junior career with the Memorial Cup runners-up Halifax Mooseheads in 2019 …There are no players on the Gladiators who ever played for a St. John’s-based team, but there are two on the Atlanta roster who had brothers who had brief careers with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. Chris Forney is the brother of Mike Forney who appeared in three games for the IceCaps in 2011-12 when they were the Winnipeg Jets’ farm team, and Josh Thrower is a brother of Dalton Thrower, who played in nine games for the Montreal Canadiens-affiliated IceCaps in 2015-16 …