Head coach Ryane Clowe is counting on his Newfoundland Growlers making loud entrances as they introduce themselves to rest of the ECHL’s North Division over the next two-and-half weeks.
The Growlers (2-2-0) left St. John’s Thursday for their first-ever regular-season road trip, an eight-game, 17-day trek that will see them play every one of their North Division counterparts at least once.
It’s easily the longest out-of-town jaunt for the Growlers the season, and for many of the players, the longest they have ever made.
“For me, I probably haven’t had one like this since junior days, if at all,” said Clowe. “I know it’s been a while.”
That much time on the road early in the season is often touted as a time for team bonding, although Clowe has often pointed out the team should be already pretty-well gelled, with many of the players having spent time together in the training camps of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies, and with the majority having participated in a cross-province three-game pre-season series against the Brampton Beast.
“(The road trip is) laid out so that we have quite a few days off in between. It’s long, but it’s not too, too hectic, so we’ll have opportunities to do some things together on the road,” said Clowe.
“But right now, it’s more important what we do on the ice. You usually bond very well when you win, so that will be our aim when it comes to bonding.”
The Growlers are coming off a season-opening homestand which saw them split a pair of two-game series with the Florida Everblades and Adirondack Thunder.
Clowe lamented the Growlers, “didn’t have more success establishing ourselves at home” and that the team couldn’t stash away a couple or few more points in the standings prior to facing the challenge of the road swing.
Against both the Everblades and Thunder, Newfoundland won the first game, but on the following night, couldn’t muster up the stuff to sweep away an opponent.
Clowe felt his team looked capable of doing it early on in their Wednesday-night rematch with the Thunder, but that feeling disappeared in what he called an “atrocious” second period when Adirondack outscored the Growlers 3-1 and outshot them 21-6 en route to a 6-4 victory.
“The game, when it gets turned up, we have no answer right now,” said Clowe. “You can see in those first games (of the two-game series), we can play a cute game, but once it gets turned up a bit, we have no answers.
“We need to rectify that.”
The trip, that begins tonight in Manchester, N.H. against Monarchs, also sees the Growlers traveling to Portland, Me., to take on their expansion brethren, the Maine Mariners, to Pennsylvania to face the Reading (Pa.) Royals, back across the border for a couple of games in Brampton, Ont., then to Glens Falls, N.Y., to play the Thunder before closing out their rambling with games against Manchester and the Worcester, Mass. Railers.
The latter come on consecutive nights, one of two back-to-back sessions on the trip, the other coming in Brampton against the Beast.
That will provide Clowe’s team to — albeit as a visitor — work on that intensity-maintaining stuff he felt was lacking over the past week at Mile One.
Clowe knows his players are just becoming accustomed to a regular-season schedule consisting of nothing but back-to-back games, but said they were forewarned.
“For me, it was addressed clearly the first week. To be successful in this game, in this league, you have to be successful on the back-to-backs,” said Clowe. “When you get there (to the second games), it becomes a players’ game, not a coaches’ game.
“Players have to find a way to get in going.”
Local defenceman Rodi Short, who played for the Growlers Wednesday, did not travel with the team the next day, but that appears to be more a matter of Short’s work commitments than anything. “I thought Rodi did a good job,” said Clowe of the 31-year-old who was plus-one against the Thunder. Short, who played professionally in Europe before returning to Newfoundland and the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, was brought in because of injuries to Alex Gudbranson, Carter Stuthers and Adam Pardy. Clowe said Stuthers is probably the closest to returning, but the Growlers still might have to bring in another blueliner before the weekend … Goaltender Mario Culina, signed at the same time as Short, could be with the Growlers for a while. Eamon McAdam, who had started for Newfoundland in its first-ever game, is remaining in Toronto after a recall by the Maple Leafs earlier in the week. McAdam is no longer in the NHL, but was reassigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, who lost netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo to what’s been called a long-term injury. The 21-year Culina was in prospect and rookie training camps with the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer after finishing up an Ontario Hockey League career that saw him post a 38-24-3 overall record with Windsor, Sudbury and Kitchener …