By Willie T. Smith III
The Greenville News
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Greenville Grrrowl coach John Marks concedes there was a time when he wondered if rookie goalie Cam Ellsworth would enable his club to remain among the best in the ECHL.
Ellsworth, who took over when veterans Mike Brodeur and Jeff Deslauriers were injured and Mike Morrison returned to the NHL, has proved he is up to the task.
“We feel very fortunate to have Cam,” Marks said. “He’s played well. If Brodeur is healthy and can get back, he’d have to earn the net because Ellsworth has proven himself.”
When Ellsworth takes the ice on Friday when the Grrrowl host the Charlotte Checkers, he does so as one of the statistical leaders in the ECHL.
Thrown into the lion’s den on Jan. 16 when Morrison was recalled by the Edmonton Oilers, Ellsworth responded with his first professional shutout in a 8-0 home win over the Pensacola Ice Gators.
One night later, Ellsworth repeated the feat, this time against the highly regarded Gwinnett Gladiators in a 6-0 Greenville victory.
“The phone was ringing,” Ellsworth said of the reaction to the shutout from his parents and friends in his hometown of Leamington, Ontario. “I had a couple of e-mails. It was surprising to realize some of the people who follow you, but it was gratifying.”
Ellsworth opened the season with Augusta, but was traded to the Grrrowl.
He wasn’t allowed to join the team until Greenville resolved some immigration issues.
Marks and general manager Ryan Stewart decided to stick it out. Now that move is paying dividends.
“It’s really worked out for the best,” Ellsworth said. “I’m comfortable with the team. But, in this league, I’m not comfortable that I have any spot given to me or guaranteed. Morrison came down, then Deslauriers. We have a lot of good goalies here who might come in. Right now, I’m just worrying about (Friday) and trying to get a win.”