ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A big offensive series from one of their veteran defencemen has helped propel the St. John's IceCaps into the second round of the American Hockey League playoffs.
Derek Meech scored the series winner in overtime as the IceCaps beat the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 Friday, taking the best-of-five Eastern Conference playoff series in four games.
Meech, who had three goals and five points in the series, fired a slapshot from the right boards at 5:01 of overtime for the game-winner.
"(Brock) Trotter made a great pass to me and I knew kind of the whole way he would find me,” Meech says.
"(Patrice) Cormier made a great screen, so that made it a lot easier on me."
Ed Pasquale made 27 saves for the IceCaps.
Iiro Tarkki stopped 34 saves for the Crunch.
Albert, who scored a game-tying goal in the second period, said it was crazy on the IceCaps bench when Meech's goal went in.
"I was trying to scramble to get off the bench and I think I was the last guy off. Everyone was pushing me around," Albert said.
"He's a great player and great guy and he's one of the leaders on our team."
The IceCaps went down 2-0 in the first period, but rallied back to tie the game in the second period. Meech believes the team's character came out in the comeback.
"We have a ton of character in that room. Obviously, we showed it tonight," Meech said.
"We didn't get the start we wanted, but we stayed calm. We came out in the second period with a couple of goals to even it up. At no point did we panic, and we just have to keep on this track as we go into the next round."
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge was not impressed with the way his team started the game, especially when they knew the Crunch were fighting for their lives.
"We knew we were playing an opponent whose season was on the line, and I thought we didn't come out with nearly the intensity that you need to have success," he said.
"The second period we started to build a little bit of momentum. We started to play the type of hockey you need at this time of year."
McCambridge says winning the first round will go a long way in unifying the team.
"What a first round does for your group is it really galvanizes the group," he said. "You can see them getting closer, you can see them starting to build that playoff excitement, that unity that you need for a team to have success."