Their success on the road this season has truly been an amazing story.
A three-win week in New England vaulted the St. John’s IceCaps into first place in the Eastern Conference and improved their road record to 17-2-2-1. Their 0.841 winning percentage on the road is by far the top mark in the league, while their power play (third) and penalty kill (second) are amongst the top units in the AHL away from home.
Coming off a shootout win last Sunday in Worcester, the IceCaps once again needed extra time to come away with a victory Wednesday night in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers. After rookie Casey Cizikas opened the scoring for Bridgeport halfway through the first period, the IceCaps stormed back and scored three straight times, all on the power play. Shawn Weller, Jason DeSantis and Paul Postma
all notched their seventh goals of the season to give the IceCaps a 3-1 lead early in the final frame. However, the Sound Tigers came back to tie it with third period goals by Matt Donovan and Cizikas and send the game to overtime. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the extra frame, so for the second straight game the IceCaps went to a shootout to decide things. Ben Maxwell
led off with his second shootout goal of the season, and after a Scott Howes goal tied things at one, Carl Kilingberg put the visitors up for good with a nifty move to beat Sound Tigers’ goaltender Kevin Poulin. Eddie Pasquale turned aside four-of-five shooters and St. John’s escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Friday, the IceCaps made their third visit of the season to the Verizon Wireless Arena and built an early lead. Kenndal McArdle
and Kevin Clark scored in the game’s opening 10 minutes and Jason Gregoire
picked up his fourth of the season at the 12:46 mark, giving the IceCaps a 3-0 advantage and sending Monarchs’ goaltender Martin Jones to the showers
early. Marc-Andre Cliche finally got the Monarchs on the board midway through the second period, and Dwight King narrowed the gap to one early in the third when he was left wide open at the side of the IceCaps’ net. However, St. John’s hung on to record the 3-2 victory in a game that saw referee Jeff Smith call just one minor penalty (an unsportsmanlike call on Patrice Cormier
that was successfully killed off). David Aebischer was on his game all night, making 35 saves to notch his team-leading 13th win of the season In 20 games.
The IceCaps wrapped up their week with a Saturday night rematch against the Portland Pirates (St. John’s lost in Portland 5-2 the previous Saturday). This time, it was the IceCaps that controlled the play. Spencer Machacek
scored a power play goal with six seconds left in the first period and All-Star Zach Redmond
buried his fifth of the season, also on the power play, to give the team a 2-0 advantage after 40 minutes. Pasquale, who was not busy on the night, held the fort and McArdle added an empty-netter to seal the 3-0 shutout. In addition to his first period goal, Machacek added a pair of assists to bring his point total to 34 on the season, tops on the club. Cormier also chipped in with two assists in the win.
While the majority of the team gets to enjoy a brief rest, defencemen Postma and Redmond and head coach Keith McCambridge headed to Atlantic City to take part in the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic. Both players participated in the All-Star Skills Competition Sunday, representing the team well. Redmond scored three times in five opportunities in the RBC Rapid Fire event, while Postma finished second in the Reebok Hardest Shot event with a shot speed of 98.9 MPH.
Heading into the break, the IceCaps sit first in the Atlantic Division with an eight-point lead over Manchester and first overall in the Eastern Conference with a two-point advantage over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Jason King leads the IceCaps with 13 goals, while Postma and Machacek share the lead in assists with 23 apiece. Aebischer’s 13 wins, 2.68 goals-against average and 0.901 save percentage are tops on the team.
The IceCaps return home on a four-game winning streak to host the Worcester Sharks this weekend in the first two games of a six-game home stand. St. John’s is 3-2-0-0 versus Worcester this season including a 3-2 shootout victory at the DCU Center on Jan. 22. However, the IceCaps have lost both contests versus the Sharks at Mile One Centre, 4-3 and 5-3 losses that came back on Dec. 9 and 11. Worcester currently sits third in the Atlantic Division with 49 points.ICECAPS NOTES:
- Special Teams Update: The IceCaps’ special teams play on the road continues to perform. The PP went 5-for-12 this week and ranks third in the AHL on the road at 23.8% (eighth overall at 20.4%). The PK unit went 8-for-9 and sits second in the league at 89.6% away from home (14th overall at 82.6%).
- Rough Atlantic: Despite the IceCaps’ eight point lead in the Atlantic Division, the seas are anything but calm. All five teams have a .500 points percentage or better, and just seven points separate second place Manchester from fifth place Providence.
- Answering the Call: After a brief one-game stint with the Jets last week, F Aaron Gagnon was recalled along with F Spencer Machacek. Machacek has yet to see any action with the Jets this season, but has appeared in 12 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers.
- Depth on D: The IceCaps will be the beneficiary of a trade made by parent club Winnipeg Monday morning. The Jets traded F Akim Aliu to the Calgary Flames for D John Negrin. A native of Vancouver, BC, Negrin has registered one assist and 12 penalty minutes in 26 games with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL. Negrin was originally drafted in the 3rd round on the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Flames. Negrin will report to the IceCaps in time for the weekend series vs. the Worcester Sharks.
- A January to Remember: The IceCaps showed no signs of a post-Christmas hangover, winning eight games in the month of January, their highest win total of any month this season.