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For the Newfoundland Growlers, this is like the playoffs in February

Newfoundland Growlers forward Riley Woods (13) sweeps a backhand shot past Maine Mariners goaltender Connor Lacouvee during their ECHL game at Mile One Centre Friday night. Woods and fellow forward Colt Conrad have been recalled to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, meaning the Growlers will be operating at a roster minimum as it takes on the Mariners agains tonight at Mile One. — Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons.
Newfoundland Growlers forward Riley Woods (13) sweeps a backhand shot past Maine Mariners goaltender Connor Lacouvee during their ECHL game at Mile One Centre Friday night. Woods and fellow forward Colt Conrad have been recalled to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, meaning the Growlers will be operating at a roster minimum as it takes on the Mariners agains tonight at Mile One. - Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons.

They take on Maine tonight in the third game of a four-game series at Mile One

The Newfoundland Growlers weren’t bleary-eyed Monday.

Turns out they hadn’t lost much sleep over seeing their ECHL-record home-ice winning streak come to an end Saturday night with a 3-1 loss to the Maine Mariners at Mile One Centre.

Mind you, they didn’t like the loss, but Growlers head coach John Snowden was more upset about the way his team was defeated than the fact that the setback ended Newfoundland’s Mile One victory streak at 19.

“We were below average. We got outworked, outplayed, and got sucked into things we shouldn’t be focused on,” said Snowden after his team’s practice Monday morning.

“We love winning and we love winning a bunch of games in a row, but we love also getting better every day, every game and we’ve done that for most of the season .

“But we didn’t get better Saturday and that’s our biggest focus as we get ready to play those guys again.”


The Maine Mariners' Morgan Maison-Adams (left) scored past a sprawling Newfoundland Growlers netminder Maksim Zhukov on a power play with 73 seconds remaining in the game to give the Mariners the winning goal in what would be a 3-1 ECHL victory Saturday night at Mile One Centre. It was Newfoundland's first loss at Mile One after an ECHL-record 19 home-ice wins. - Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons
The Maine Mariners' Morgan Maison-Adams (left) scored past a sprawling Newfoundland Growlers netminder Maksim Zhukov on a power play with 73 seconds remaining in the game to give the Mariners the winning goal in what would be a 3-1 ECHL victory Saturday night at Mile One Centre. It was Newfoundland's first loss at Mile One after an ECHL-record 19 home-ice wins. - Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons
 


Tonight at Mile One, the Growlers and Mariners square off in a rematch. Snowden says the motivation shouldn’t be revenge for the Mariners snapping the streak, but to make up for a sub-par effort Saturday.

“And we’ve done that this season … been able to respond, whether it’s in a game when we’re down or during a road trip after a loss.

“Now, we get a chance to do that at home.”

They haven’t had any opportunity to just that for the last four months. Before Saturday, their last home-ice loss had been in mid-October. After that, they began the Mile One run that eventually saw they eclipse a 25-year-old league record; the South Carolina Stingrays had won 18 straight at home during the 1994-95 season.

But as the wins kept piling up and talk about the record picked up, the Growlers stayed super cool on the subject.

“To be honest, until (we won) the 18th game, I don’t think anyone in the locker room talked about it,” said Newfoundland defenceman Evan Neugold.

"We didn’t talk, we just played our game and I actually I think that’s one the reasons we kept winning.

“We weren’t uptight about it.”



Snowden says the same attitude was adopted in the coach’s office.

“I heard about (the winning streak) of course, but I paid little or zero attention to it. That wasn’t because of superstition,” he said.

‘We wanted to win of course, but we just weren’t concentrating on a record.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t pride in the accomplishment, especially considering the make-up of the Growlers’ home schedule, which consists almost entirely of back-to-back games against the same opponent. And those who have followed professional hockey teams in St. John’s, all which have had similar home schedules, know how that dynamic makes sweeps — by either the home or visiting team — more difficult.

Newfoundland Growlers head coach John Snowden. — Newfoundland Growlers photo/Joe Chase
Newfoundland Growlers head coach John Snowden. — Newfoundland Growlers photo/Joe Chase
 

It’s why it would have been at least reasonable to assume the Mariners would come away with at least one win from this trip to St. John’s. Tonight’s game is the third of what will be four straight games between the teams at Mile One; they’ll finish off the series Wednesday night.

It’s a scheduling oddity that resulted from the Manchester Monarchs folding after the 2019-20 ECHL schedule had been finalized. The Monarchs had been a North Division rival of the Growlers and Mariners, so there was a scramble to find ways to fill the gaps in the schedule resulting from Manchester’s exit.

This series is the result of one of those adjustments.

Snowden actually sees it as an opportunity for his team.

“It’s hard to beat a team on back to back nights, let alone four in a row, but I think this is a good chance for our group to experience something like a playoff atmosphere,” he said.

Interestingly, if the post-season today, the North Division-leading Growlers (36-12-1) would face the fourth-place Mariners (28-21-3) in the opening playoff round.

But Maine has ben on a run as of late, going 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and is challenging the Brampton Beast for third place in the division.

“They’re playing very good hockey,” agreed Snowden, “but so have we, except for that last game.”

Adding to the challenge for the Growlers is the loss of two more forwards — Riley Woods and Colt Conrad — on recall to the Toronto Marlies. That makes seven players who were considered as Newfoundland regulars now on the roster of the Growlers’ AHL affiliate. And with team-leading goal-scorer Marcus Power still sidelined by injury, it means the team is left with nine forwards and seven defenceman. That includes centre Alec Baer and rearguard Derian Hamilton, who are set to make their Newfoundland debuts tonight.

Baer and Hamilton were recently signed out of the Southern Professional Hockey League, and the Growlers are bringing in yet another player from the SPHL, forward Anthony McVeigh. However, it’s not known if McVeigh, who has been with the Knoxville Ice Bears, will be available for tonight.



Twitter: @telybrendan


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