Having reclaimed first place in the Atlantic Division after a two-game sweep of the Manchester Monarchs last weekend, the St. John’s IceCaps were on a high heading into a tough weekday series versus the Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies got off to a blazing start Tuesday night, scoring twice in the opening two minutes and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Mike Zigomanis and Marcel Mueller both scored goals off the rush, and the IceCaps were down 2-0 before they could catch their breath. The home team battled back during the frame, but a fluky goal by Joe Colborne with just 27 seconds left in the period deflated the IceCaps heading into the intermission, and the team never did recover. Eric O’Dell potted his fifth of the season late in the second period, but Marlies’ captain Ryan Hamilton silenced the crowd just 32 seconds later, scoring on a breakaway to restore the three-goal lead. Jason King added his 11th on the power play in the third, but goaltender Mark Owuya (who replaced Jussi Rynnas after Rynnas took a shot to the helmet) shut the door down the stretch to preserve the victory.
Wednesday night was a completely different story. The IceCaps came out strong, getting on the board first when Shawn Weller redirected a Jason DeSantis point shot on a power play, his sixth goal of the season. The first period ended with the IceCaps leading 1-0 and outshooting the Marlies 17-6. The Marlies would tie it early in the second on a goal from an unlikely source, as agitator Kyle Neuber was sent in alone and patiently outwaited David Aebischer, sliding the puck into the net for the equalizer. However, the IceCaps captain and game’s first star, Jason Jaffray
, gave the home team the lead back with his 10th goal of the year, a howitzer that Owuya had no chance to stop. Jaffray later assisted on Jason King’s team-leading 12th of the season, finishing the night with three points and guiding his team to a 3-2 triumph.
This past weekend, the IceCaps hosted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a pair of games that turned out to be two of the crazier games at Mile One Centre this season. Saturday, the teams combined for 10 goals in a 6-4 Penguins win, a game that saw the teams trade penalty shots and the visitors score two shorthanded goals just 21 seconds apart. The Penguins’ penalty shot came late in the second frame when Ben Street, a BC native whose parents hail from St. John’s, was slashed on a breakaway but still managed to get off a clean shot. Street made no mistake on the penalty shot attempt, giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead after two periods. The two shorthanded markers came with the game tied midway through the third period, and despite a goal by Jason Gregoire
to pull within one, the IceCaps surrendered a goal with the net empty that sealed the Penguins’ win.
Sunday’s result was not what the team was looking for, but it showed the IceCaps’ ‘never-say-die’ attitude they have displayed all season long. After falling behind 2-0 and 3-1, the IceCaps battled back to tie the game in the third period and force overtime. It was Street who again provided a crushing blow to the home team, this time scoring in the extra frame to give the Penguins a 4-3 win and earn first star honours. Spencer Machacek
, Ben Maxwell
, and Jaffray scored for St. John’s while Eddie Pasquale, starting for the first time since New Year’s Day in Toronto, was tagged with the loss.
The three-point week, combined with Manchester’s three straight losses this past weekend, gives the IceCaps a five-point advantage in the Atlantic Division. The IceCaps travel to New England this weekend for the start of a six-game road trip, with games in Connecticut, Portland and Worcester Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The IceCaps are 3-0 versus the Whale this season, winning 6-3 at the XL Center in Hartford back on Nov. 4. Against the Pirates, the IceCaps have a 2-1-0-1 record, including a 5-2 win Dec. 18 prior to the Christmas break. The season series between the IceCaps and Sharks is knotted at two, with the road team coming away victorious each time.ICECAPS NOTES:
- Special Teams Update: The IceCaps went 3-for-19 on the PP this weekend and rank 8th in the AHL with the man advantage (20.0%). The penalty killing unit allowed two goals on 17 chances, and sits 18th overall (81.3%).
- Postma Summoned: The Winnipeg Jets recalled All-Star D Paul Postma prior to the IceCaps weekend series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, though the blueliner did not draw into the lineup for the Jets’ Saturday afternoon tilt vs. the New Jersey Devils. In 30 games this season with the IceCaps, Postma has 27 points, including a team-high 21 assists (tied with Marco Rosa).
- Roster Shakeup: In addition to Postma’s move, the IceCaps shuffled their roster this past week, sending G Peter Mannino and F Tommy Maxwell to Chicago and Colorado of the ECHL, respectively. C Patrice Cormier was also reassigned to the IceCaps Friday and played in both contests this weekend, collecting one assist and five shots.
- Jaffray on Fire: Since his return to the IceCaps lineup Dec. 28 vs. Hamilton, F Jason Jaffray has notched 11 points (4g, 7a) in nine games and sits tied for fourth in team scoring with Jason King and Carl Klingberg, despite playing in just 24 of the IceCaps 38 games.
- OT Struggles: St. John’s has recorded just one win in seven games when overtime or a shootout is needed to decide the outcome. The IceCaps have lost five times in the overtime, tied for tops in the AHL, and are one of just four teams yet to win in the extra frame (Charlotte, Hershey, and Milwaukee).