TORONTO - In a game featuring two evenly matched Canadian clubs, the American Hockey League's best came out on top.
The first-overall St. John's IceCaps edged out the third-ranked Toronto Marlies with a tight 2-1 victory Saturday in AHL play.
It was a tight-checking game right down to a frantic last minute before final buzzer, leaving both coaches pleased with the way their teams played.
"We came out with a really high intensity, a real good push in the first period," IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge said. "We knew Toronto would come out in the second period and try to get the momentum back and I thought they did that. They controlled a lot of the play in the second. And the third period was back and forth on both sides."
"It was hard-fought game by both teams, and we had to work real hard to get the two points out of this building."
Despite the loss, Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins was pleased with the way his club player blowing a three-goal lead in Friday's win.
"It was a lot like a playoff game — tight, physical, and the game pushed back and came back the other way," he said. "Even though we didn't get the points, I like being in those games because it prepares our team for these big games going down the stretch.
"We're going to be in a ton of 2-1, 3-2 games going down the stretch. We want to learn from that and our guys are getting it. I trust this group. .Sometimes it' good to get a kick in the butt like this to refocus."
Patrice Cormier had the other goal for the IceCaps.
The game featured the best road team in St. John's (18-3-3) against the top home team in Toronto (16-5-4).
McCambridge attributed his team' success on the road to one thing.
"Character — we have a real good character group of players," he said. "We have a really good balance of veteran leadership with really young players that want to learn, play hard and go to the dirty areas of the ice.
"We realize where our strengths are. We realize how we need to execute on the road to have success and we've been able to feed off that and get wins out of tough buildings."
St. John's opened the scoring early with a weak goal past Scrivens, who was making his first start in four games.
Cormier picked up a loose puck behind the Marlies goal and snuck it by Scrivens uncontested on the wraparound less than three minutes into the game.
The IceCaps (33-13-6) dominated the first period, outshooting the Marlies 9-3 and controlling most of the play.
Toronto (29-18-6) came to life in the second and got a break midway through the period, catching St. John's making a horrible line change.
Hamilton snuck behind the changing players, took a breakaway pass from Juraj Mikus and snapped a shot past the glove hand of Pasquale (15-6-0).
"Multiple things happened," McCambridge said. "One, we didn't get the puck deep to their goal-line. Two, we didn't help it get to the goal-line. And three, we changed when they shouldn't of. We need to hold at least two guys on the ice. We can't have two defenceman changing at one time.
"The Marlies recognized it, turned it back quickly and put it in the back of our net. A mental error, but luckily it didn't cost us."
It was Hamilton's team-leading 20th goal of the season, matching his career high set in 2007-08 when he was with the Houston Aeros.
"I really wanted to put a full season together and stay healthy, that's a huge part," Hamilton said. "In saying that, we got such a great team here. We got good offensive players out there and they're making me look good."
St. John's retook the lead at 6:40 on the third period when Klingberg streaked in off the left wing and fired a shot past Scrivens (13-10-1) for his 14th of the season.
Toronto pulled Scrivens late in the game and pushed hard for the tying goal, but couldn't get one past Pasquale.
"He was really good, a real strong game by him," McCambridge said. "He's been really strong for us as of late."
Toronto hosts Lake Erie on Monday, while St. John's visits Hamilton on Friday.
Notes: It was the eighth and final time the teams faced each other this season. Toronto won the season series 4-3-1. ... The Marlies dropped to 5-1-1 on their 10-game homestand.