Published by Michael Keeley, Maine Mariners Media Relations and Broadcast Manager
|Hannu Toivonen during his first Mariners start in Worcester on December 29th, 2018. Photo credit: Edward Jacobs|
The Mariners opened training camp with three goaltenders: Brandon Halverson, Chris Nell, and Connor LaCouvee. As of January 9th, none of the above are on the roster. Halverson and LaCouvee are in the AHL, and Nell was reassigned within the ECHL due to the exceptional play of the other two. It's the nature of the ECHL as a whole, as the Mariners have experienced across all three positions (forward, defense, and goaltending) this season. In the final week of 2018, the Mariners signed former Boston Bruin and first round pick Hannu Toivonen, who has quickly elevated up the depth chart as the top option available. So how did it happen and who exactly are the men behind the mask?
A.J. WHIFFENAs the Mariners embarked for Canada on the morning of Monday, January 7th, Riley Armstrong had to scramble to find an EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) for the games in Newfoundland and potentially Brampton. While all teams are required to assist one other with EBUG options in their market, this was an even easier call for Riley, who is close friends and former teammates (and roommates) with Growlers head coach Ryane Clowe.
A.J. Whiffen is the go-to EBUG on the Rock and the backup of choice for the trip. Whiffen plays for his hometown Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in the CWSHL (Central West Senior A Hockey League), one of a variety of semi-pro leagues throughout Canada for players who have aged out of Junior eligibility. He played in the Saskatchewan Junior League for Weyburn, and played Canadian University for Regina. Just finished with carpentry school, he waits patiently for his next assignment - for the Growlers or a team visiting the scenic island. All for the love of the game. He knows he's unlikely to see the ice beyond practice and warmups, but he keeps a smile and great sense of humor. Just like everyone else between the pipes, he's just a man behind a mask, with a story to tell.