The St. John’s IceCaps 2011-12 season come to a crashing end with a 4-0 loss to the Norfolk Admirals in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night at Mile One Centre. With the win, the Admirals swept the IceCaps in four straight games to advance to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time in team history.
Dustin Tokarski recorded his second straight shutout while Tyler Johnson had a goal and an assist for the visitors, who controlled the game from the outset. Eddie Pasquale put in yet another heroic effort, making 38 saves in a third-star effort, but it wasn’t enough.
“We’re disappointed in the outcome of this series and ending the season right now,” assistant captain Jason King told the media afterwards. “None of us want the season to be over. In saying that, this is the start of something good. No question.
“But give them credit. Their record speaks for itself. They’re a good team in all aspects. I don’t think we played the way we can play, which is disappointing, but after all is said and done, there are definitely a lot of positives from this season.”
Norfolk outscored St. John’s 14-2 in the series, totally dominating from the outset. Yet while there was disappointment in the end result, head coach Keith McCambridge had words of praise for his team and the accomplishments from this season.
“Any time you can only score two goals in four games – one on the power play, you’re playing against a very good opponent,” McCambridge said following the contest. “You have to give credit with regards to their performance on the ice. I thought Norfolk was obviously a really good opponent.
“I’m really proud of what we accomplished as an organization here, what the players accomplished on the ice. We had a new product here, a product returning back to Newfoundland and Labrador. Overall we’re really happy with the regular season, happy getting to the final four.
“It’s not the ending we drew up going into the playoffs. Obviously we’d like to be pushing on here.”
Facing elimination, the IceCaps had some jump out of the gate as they looked to get off to a fast start. The home side played a physical first half of the opening period but fell behind at the 15:15 mark of the frame on a goal by Evan Oberg.
Alexandre Picard’s pass from behind the net found Oberg at the left point, and the defenceman snapped a hard shot that beat Pasquale on the glove side for a 1-0 lead.
Just 2:32 later, the Admirals struck on the power play to increase their lead to two. After a Paul Postma slashing minor, Tyler Johnson flipped in a loose puck after Ondrej Palat’s pass attempt was slowed by the skate of Arturs Kulda. The goal gave Norfolk a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play and silenced the capacity crowd at Mile One Centre. Norfolk outshot St. John’s 18-7 in the opening period.
The second period was more domination by the Admirals. Just 1:41 into the frame, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Monday’s overtime hero, spun and fired a shot towards the net from the top of the right circle that was deflected off the post and in by Trevor Smith to give the Admirals a 3-0 advantage.
In the third, Norfolk added to the lead midway through the period on another power play. This time, Brandon Segal banked a shot off Pasquale and in from the side of the goal for his third of the playoffs, giving the Admirals a 4-0 lead.
Despite the inevitable loss, the fans at Mile One showed their appreciation for the tremendous inaugural season by getting on their feet with more than three minutes left in regulation and remaining that way until the players left the ice, long after the final buzzer.
“To look around Mile One and not an empty seat in the building, and to see everybody standing, not one person left this building, and to give a standing ovation to this team,” McCambridge stated, “is really the stamp on everything we’ve seen here all season long, with the sellouts, with the buzz in the city here. During the playoffs it’s been unbelievable. We can’t say enough things about it. We really wish we would have been able to give our fans a different result.”
The Admirals advance to the Calder Cup Finals to play the winner of the Toronto Marlies-Oklahoma City Barons series. The Marlies currently lead the best-of-seven series two-games-to-one, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night in Toronto.
The IceCaps ended their season going 158 minutes and nine seconds without scoring a goal. Their last tally game 1:51 into the second period of Game 2 in Norfolk when John Albert beat Dustin Tokarski on a backhand rebound….The Admirals set an AHL record for fewest goals allowed (two) in a four-game playoff series….St. John’s went 0 for their last 18 on the power play and 1-for-25 overall in the series….Eddie Pasquale faced 42 shots Tuesday, marking the fourth time in 15 games he has faced more than 40 shots….The Admirals are the ninth consecutive East Division team to reach the Calder Cup Finals….With Tuesday’s sellout, the IceCaps sold out all 46 games at Mile One Centre this season….Wednesday’s 50/50 payout was $22,600.