The St. John’s IceCaps finished off their seven-game road trip and opened up their six-game home stand in style, coming away with three wins and marching closer to a playoff berth.
WEEK IN REVIEW:
Tuesday, March 6 – St. John’s IceCaps 5 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2
Capping off a seven-game road trip with a stop in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, St. John’s used a three-goal first period to propel itself to a 5-2 victory over the Penguins. John Albert, Carl Klingberg and Jason DeSantis scored in the opening frame, and despite the Penguins’ best efforts to make it a game by closing the gap to 3-2 after 40 minutes, the IceCaps pulled away in the third. Arturs Kulda scored a beautiful shorthanded goal on a two-on-one rush just 2:47 into the frame, and Ray Sawada notched his first goal as an IceCap just minutes later to lock up the win, the 20th of the season for the IceCaps on the road. Eddie Pasquale made 28 saves for his second straight win.
Friday, March 9 – St. John’s IceCaps 6 Hershey Bears 1
Friday’s homecoming against the visiting Hershey Bears was all about Patrice Cormier. The Moncton native recorded his first professional hat trick (an added an assist) in a 6-1 romp over the Bears. The IceCaps torched Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby for five goals on 29 shots (Dany Sabourin allowed the other in relief) and Pasquale was once again on his game, turning aside 19 shots in a relatively easy victory. Despite a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes, an IceCaps win was never in doubt. Jason Jaffray scored his 17th of the season on a beautiful solo effort early in the second, and after Cormier picked up his second goal of the game just 1:43 later, Kevin Clark converted his 10th on a nice setup from Ben Maxwell to make it 4-1 through two periods. Cormier completed the hat trick early in the third with his second breakaway goal of the night, and Spencer Machacek added his 14th of the season for good measure near the end of the game, with Cormier drawing the assist. Cormier’s four points were a single-game high for an IceCaps player this season.
Saturday, March 10 – St. John’s IceCaps 3 Hershey Bears 2
Saturday’s rematch with the Bears was a tighter checking affair. St. John’s outshot Hershey 15-4 in the first but was unable to get on the board, as goaltender Dany Sabourin kept the visitors in it. The teams traded goals in the second period – Paul Postma netted his 13th of the season, tying him with three other players for the AHL lead among defencemen – and headed into the final 20 minutes knotted at one. Jason King appeared to be the hero at 8:55 of the third when he batted home a loose puck to give the IceCaps a 2-1 lead, but Matt Pope silenced the crowd with 2:41 to go in regulation when a point shot deflected to him in front of the net. Pope cashed in to tie the game at two and send it to overtime. With neither team able to find the twine in the extra frame, a shootout was necessary to settle the score. King reclaimed his hero status by scoring the shootout’s only goal, beating Sabourin blocker side with a well-placed shot and earning the game’s first star honours. Pasquale was brilliant between the pipes once again, making 28 saves and denying all five shooters in the shootout.
The IceCaps continue their six-game home stand with a pair of contests against the Hamilton Bulldogs Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as a two-game set versus the Manchester Monarchs Saturday and Sunday.
St. John’s has dropped its last two against the Bulldogs, both on the road. In their last meeting on Feb. 24, the Bulldogs rallied to win 3-2 in a shootout in front of 11,300 fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Hamilton’s only visit to St. John’s came back on Oct. 14 and 15, when the IceCaps dropped their home opener 4-0 but rebounded to post a 6-2 victory the following night.
The IceCaps and Monarchs have met five times this season, with St. John’s posting a perfect 5-0-0-0 record against their division rival. Their last meeting came on Jan. 27, when the IceCaps edged the Monarchs 3-2 at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The IceCaps entertained the Monarchs on Jan. 6 and 7, with the home team sweeping the two game series.
- Home Sweet Home: After struggling to find consistency at home early on, the IceCaps have found their groove at Mile One Centre. The club has won six straight games at home, improving their record to 17-10-3-0.
- On the Plus Side: D Arturs Kulda was a plus-5 in this weekend’s series vs. Hershey, boosting his team-high rating to plus-19 for the season and ranking him second overall among AHL defencemen, behind Peoria’s Cade Fairchild (plus-29).
- Sellout Streak Continues: The IceCaps consecutive sellout streak reached the 30-game plateau with Saturday’s contest at Mile One Centre. The club has eight regular season games remaining on the home portion of its schedule.
- Pasquale Honoured: Prior to Friday’s game, G Eddie Pasquale was honoured for his Reebok/AHL Player of the Week award for the week of Feb. 6. IceCaps President and CEO Danny Williams presented Pasquale with his award as well as a framed portrait done by local artist Ray Abbott.
- Wide Margin: Friday’s 6-1 win marked the largest margin of victory (five goals) for the IceCaps this season. Their previous high was four, achieved four times, most recently a Dec. 2 4-0 win in Hamilton against the Bulldogs.