The St. John’s IceCaps renewed hostilities with the Hamilton Bulldogs last Friday in their only game of the week, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision. The club still remains in first place in the Atlantic Division with 73 points, 12 up on second place Manchester. The Norfolk Admirals have overtaken the IceCaps for top spot in the Eastern Conference with 75 points, but St. John’s has four games in hand.
WEEK IN REVIEW:Friday, February 24 – Hamilton Bulldogs 3 St. John’s IceCaps 2
Despite a two-goal lead late in the third period, the IceCaps were unable to secure the two points against Hamilton in a game that took place in front of 11,300 fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal. After an evenly-matched and scoreless first period, Shawn Weller got the IceCaps on the board early in the second. After defenceman Arturs Kulda
fired the puck into the Hamilton zone, it took a funny bounce off the glass and when Bulldogs goaltender Nathan Lawson attempted to clear the rolling puck, he put it right on the tape of Weller for his 10th of the season. Ben Maxwell
added to the lead with his seventh of the season 3:14 into the third period on a perfectly placed shot, giving St. John’s a 2-0 advantage. However, the Bulldogs stormed back to tie the game at two and force the extra frame. Brian Willsie potted his 10th at 12:56 to make it 2-1, and then Garrett Stafford notched his eighth – right off a faceoff on the power play with less than two minutes to play in regulation – to knot it at two. The teams traded chances in overtime, but both Lawson and David Aebischer stood tall, sending the game to a shootout. Things looked good for the IceCaps after Maxwell, Jason King and Carl Klingberg
scored on three of the first four chances for St. John’s, but the Bulldogs scored on four consecutive attempts to complete the comeback.
The IceCaps get back into high gear this week with a trio of games on the road. Tuesday, St. John’s visits the Binghamton Senators, followed by a date with the Syracuse Crunch Saturday night and a rematch in Binghamton Sunday evening.
The IceCaps and Senators have met twice this year as part of a two-game series at Mile One Centre in St. John’s earlier this month. On Feb. 11, Jason King scored the game-winning goal with less than a minute to play to give the IceCaps a 4-3 win. The following night, St. John’s put up six goals, including a pair from Jason Jaffray
and Ben Maxwell
, en route to a 6-3 victory.
St. John’s and Syracuse have also met twice this season, splitting the two games at Mile One back on Dec. 6 and 7. The IceCaps used a four-goal second to edge the Crunch 4-3 on Dec. 6. The following night, Crunch winger Kyle Palmieri notched a hat-trick in a 5-3 Syracuse triumph.ICECAPS NOTES:
- Trade Deadline: It was a quiet trade deadline day for most NHL teams on Monday. The Winnipeg Jets made just one deal, sending D Johnny Oduya to Chicago for a pair of draft picks. However, the club also picked up D Grant Clitsome off waivers from Columbus, meaning the IceCaps roster stays intact as they continue their march to the playoffs.
- All is Weller: F Shawn Weller has been the IceCaps’ most consistent scorer of late. The 25-year-old winger has recorded a point in each of his last seven contests and has scored in two of the past three games. He also set a new career high in points (24) in just 40 games this season.
- By the Percentages: Despite sitting two points behind the Norfolk Admirals and Oklahoma City Barons for first overall in the AHL, the IceCaps’ have two games in hand on both teams and possess the league’s top points percentage at .689. St. John’s is currently on pace for 105 points this season.
- Shootout Sniping: The IceCaps are 3-2 in shootouts this season and have scored on 39% of their shootout attempts, good for second in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the AHL.
- Road Special Teams: The IceCaps rank in the top five both on the power play and on the penalty kill on the road. The power play has operated at 22.3% efficiency (4th), while the penalty kill has been successful on 89.1% of its attempts (1st).