With a top-three seed locked up, the IceCaps returned home for their final home stand of the season, splitting a pair of games with both the Portland Pirates and Springfield Falcons.
It was also a big week for IceCaps’ standouts Eddie Pasquale and Paul Postma. Wednesday, Pasquale was named as the goaltender for the AHL All-Rookie Team after posting a 21-11-1 record with a 2.36 goals-against average in his first full pro season. On Thursday, Postma was selected as one of two defencemen for the AHL’s First All-Star Team. The injured blueliner has tallied 13 goals and 31 assists for 44 points in 55 games, including 24 power play points and three gamewinning goals.
WEEK IN REVIEW:
Tuesday, April 3 – St. John’s IceCaps 5 Portland Pirates 2
Facing a team fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot, the IceCaps came out strong and scored twice in the opening five minutes of the game, setting the tone en route to a 5-2 victory. Aaron Gagnon and John Albert both beat former IceCaps Peter Mannino in the early-going and with a 2-1 lead heading into the second period, St. John’s got contributions from a couple of freshmen. Defenceman Will O’Neill and forward Danny Dries – both signed to amateur tryout contracts in March – scored their first professional goals with a 15-second span early in the middle frame, spelling the end for Mannino. Zach Redmond notched the IceCaps’ fifth goal at the 6:51 mark and the club didn’t look back, winning their second straight and 19th of the season on home ice.
Wednesday, April 4 – Portland Pirates 5 St. John’s IceCaps 1
Despite another good start – Garth Murray converted on a pretty pass from John Albert behind the net five minutes after the opening draw – Portland put its foot on the gas and scored three times in the first, including a backbreaking shorthanded goal by Matt Watkins on a breakaway with just 1:33 left in the period. The Pirates’ line of Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Brett Sterling and Brett MacLean combined for seven points in the a 5-1 defeat of the IceCaps. Goaltender Chris Carrozzi played admirably between the pipes for St. John’s, stopping 26 shots in just his third career AHL start.
Saturday, April 7 – Springfield Falcons 6 St. John’s IceCaps 3
It was déjà vu all over again for St. John’s on Saturday night. Staked to a 1-0 lead just 1:40 into the game after a goal by Eric O’Dell, Springfield scored the next five goals to seize control of the game. Nathan Longpre and Andrew Joudrey had a pair each of the Falcons while Nick Drazenovic contributed with three assists as Springfield took advantage of a struggling penalty kill to score twice in three opportunities. David Aebischer was replaced by Eddie Pasquale (who had missed the previous six games with an upper body injury) after allowing four goals on just nine shots. The lone bright spot for St. John’s was O’Dell, who potted two goals in the third to record his first professional hat trick.
Sunday, April 8 – St. John’s IceCaps 4 Springfield Falcons 3
One could say the IceCaps saved the best for last. On the final day of Fan Appreciation Week, the IceCaps gave the fans something to cheer about with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over the Falcons. It started with the presentation of team awards prior to the opening faceoff. Jason King received a rousing ovation upon winning the Community Man of the Year award, while Pasquale took home Top Rookie honours. Murray was the winner of the Fans Choice award, as voted on by IceCaps fans on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, Postma walked away with both the Top Defenceman and Most Valuable Player awards. Pasquale started in goal for the first time since Mar. 24 and stabilized the back end, making 26 saves for his 22nd win of the season. O’Dell continued his torrid pace with another two-goal performance, including the game-winner with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation on an IceCaps’ power play. Moments earlier, O’Dell was slashed by Falcons defenceman David Savard and got his retribution when he knocked home a loose puck to put his club on top for good.
The IceCaps finish their 2011-12 regular season with three games on the road this coming weekend against the Worcester Sharks, Springfield Falcons and Manchester Monarchs.
- Reinforcements on the way: With the parent Winnipeg Jets finishing up their season this past weekend, the IceCaps will welcome back forwards Spencer Machacek and Patrice Cormier, who were reassigned to St. John’s Monday. Machacek recorded nine points in 13 games with Winnipeg and leads the IceCaps in scoring with 48 points in 58 games. Cormier went pointless in nine games with the Jets but his 17 goals for St. John’s ranks him tied for second with Machacek and Jason Jaffray.
- Hometown boy makes debut: St. John’s native Zach O’Brien, signed to an amateur tryout contract last week, made his pro debut in Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 win over Springfield. The 19-year-old played limited minutes and did not factor into the scoring. In 63 games with Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL, O’Brien scored a league-high 50 goals and added 51 assists for 101 points.
- Playoff prospecting: A win in one of the club’s final three games (or a Bridgeport loss) would guaranteed the IceCaps a second place finish in the Eastern Conference, meaning they would face the seven seed in the opening round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs. Currently, the Syracuse Crunch occupies that spot, three points up on both the Manchester Monarchs and Portland Pirates. St. John’s lost three-of-four meetings with Syracuse this season.
- Thrice is nice: The IceCaps scored three times on the power play in Sunday’s win over Springfield, the seventh time this season the club has accomplished this feat. In those seven games, the team is 6-1-0-0.
- Meech makes an impact: D Derek Meech, who had only suited up in three games for St. John’s this season because of a knee injury, returned to the lineup Sunday and was a big factor in the team’s 4-3 victory and helped resuscitate a dormant St. John’s power play. The veteran blueliner assisted on Kevin Clark’s power play marker in the second period and was on the ice for all four IceCaps’ goals, including three with the man advantage.