They needed more than regulation time, but the St. John’s IceCaps came away with four big points this past week, winning two-of-three and extending their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
The IceCaps opened their road trip Friday in Hartford, CT for a matchup against the Connecticut Whale, a game that needed more than 60 minutes to see a winner crowned. Riley Holzapfel, returning to the lineup after missing the previous 18 with a broken bone in his cheek, didn’t wait long to make an impact, scoring his eighth of the season late in the opening stanza on a St. John’s power play to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The IceCaps would remain in front until early in the third period, when the Whale’s Erik Christensen tied it. With both goaltenders standing on their heads – Eddie Pasquale made 26 saves, including a save-of-the-year candidate in which he scrambled from behind his net to make a spectacular glove save while diving across the goal – neither team was able pull ahead in regulation time. Just 16 seconds into the extra frame, captain Jason Jaffray
buried his 12th goal of the season to give the IceCaps their first overtime victory in team history, 2-1.
Saturday against the Portland Pirates, Pasquale earned a second straight start, but did not fare as well this time around. Portland’s Patrick O’Sullivan scored with 18 seconds remaining in the first period, setting the tone for the rest of the contest. The Pirates went on to score twice in the opening 8:07 of the middle frame, and despite goals by Aaron Gagnon
and Jason King – his team-leading 13th of the season – the IceCaps were unable to pull any closer. Alex Bolduc and Michael Stone beat Pasquale within a 2:40 span midway through the third as the Pirates rolled to a 5-2 win. The loss was just the second road defeat in regulation time for the IceCaps this season.
The following day, the IceCaps squared off against the second-place Worcester Sharks in a key divisional matchup. Unlike their last meeting in St. John’s when the teams combined for five fights and 70 minutes in penalties, the IceCaps and Sharks played a clean, hard-fought game that, like Friday, needed extra time to decide a winner. After a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals in the second, with Ben Maxwell
netting his fourth of the season on a nice setup by Zach Redmond
and Spencer Machacek
. In the third, Garth Murray scored his second goal on the year at 9:43 – tipping a Kenndal McArdle
shot – giving the IceCaps a slim 2-1 lead that appeared to be enough with David Aebischer looking sharp between the pipes. But with the Sharks’ net empty and 1:27 to go, Brandon Mashinter notched his second goal of the afternoon and sent the game into overtime. Both teams had great opportunities to win in the extra frame but Aebischer and counterpart Tyson Sexsmith, a 2012 All-Star, shut the door to force a shootout. Murray’s play earned him another chance to play hero and he made no mistake, scoring the only goal in the shootout to give the IceCaps the extra point and a 3-2 triumph.
The two wins give St. John’s (24-11-5-1) a total of 54 points, six more than the Sharks and Manchester Monarchs atop the Atlantic Division. The IceCaps also sit just one point back of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for first overall in the Eastern Conference.
The team continues its six-game road trip with stops in Bridgeport, Manchester and Portland this week. Wednesday, the IceCaps take on the Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena, their second visit to Bridgeport this season. Back on Nov. 6, the IceCaps edged the Sound Tigers 4-3 and lead the season series 2-1. Jaffray had a pair of assists in that contest while Marco Rosa tallied a goal and added a helper.
Friday, the IceCaps invade Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester for a divisional matchup against the Monarchs. The teams last hooked up Jan. 6 and 7 in St. John’s, with the IceCaps coming out on top in both contests by scores of 4-2 and 4-3. The IceCaps hold a 4-0 lead in the season series.
Finally, St. John’s revisits Portland to take on the Pirates for a second straight Saturday night. The IceCaps are 2-2-0-1 this season versus the Pirates, including a 1-1-0-1 mark at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.ICECAPS NOTES:
- Special Teams Update: The IceCaps PP hit a bit of a snag this week, going just 1-for-14 and falling to 10th in the AHL (19.1%). The penalty killing unit, however, went 14-for-15 and climbed to 16th overall (82.3%). Since the turn of the calendar, the IceCaps are operating at an 88% clip on the penalty kill (37-for-42).
- Shuttle Service: D Paul Postma and C Patrice Cormier continue to be shuffled back and forth between St. John’s and NHL affiliate Winnipeg. Postma, recalled Jan. 13, was returned to the IceCaps and played all three games this past weekend. Cormier was recalled Friday, the third time he has been summoned by the Jets this season.
- Meech Added: D Derek Meech was placed on waivers and assigned to St. John’s over the weekend. Meech, 27, played in only two games with the Jets, missing the majority of the season with a lower-body injury. The addition of Meech should provide even more depth on the blueline for head coach Keith McCambridge down the stretch.
- Riley Returns: F Riley Holzapfel made his much anticipated return to the lineup Friday and scored a first period goal. Holzapfel, out since suffering a broken cheekbone in practice in late November, has missed 18 games but still ranks tied for sixth on the IceCaps in goal-scoring with eight, including a team-high three game-winners.
- Injury Update: D Brett Festerling suffered an undisclosed injury in Friday night’s win over the Whale and missed Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests. Also, F Jason King left Sunday’s game in Worcester and did not return. F Marco Rosa remains sidelined with a head injury and will not play on the road trip.
- Jaffray, IceCaps mourn: Captain Jason Jaffray received some unfortunate news late Saturday, when he was informed of the passing of his mother. Jaffray left the team Sunday to return home to Alberta to be with his family.