WATCH: Rogers Channel 471, Leafs TV, AHL Live | LISTEN: stjohnsicecaps.com, 930 AM
FOLLOW: @IceCapsAHL #TEXvsSTJ
The St. John’s IceCaps didn’t want to let another golden opportunity slip through their fingers and they got the job done as they defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-0 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final to move on to the 2014 Calder Cup Finals for the first time in team history.
LAST GAME: The St. John’s IceCaps held a slim 2-0 lead through two periods and exploded for three more in the third as they rolled to a 5-0 series-clinching victory at Mile One Centre on Tuesday night.
Eric O’Dell opened the scoring in the first period for St. John’s, netting his ninth goal of the playoffs on the power play with just over two minutes remaining in the frame.
Adam Lowry took a beautiful goalmouth pass from rookie Josh Morrissey just 3:24 into the second period to give the IceCaps an early two-goal cushion.
Both teams played well defensively for the remainder of the second period but right after the intermission, the IceCaps struck again.
Blair Riley deflected home his first goal of the playoffs just 2:23 into the third period, sending the Mile One Centre crowd into a frenzy as they could sense victory was getting closer.
The roars started again just under three minutes later as a wrist shot from Zach Redmond eluded Penguins goaltender Peter Mannino to give the IceCaps a lead they would not give up.
Captain Jason Jaffray added an empty netter during the final minute of play to seal the deal and send the IceCaps to the Calder Cup Finals.
IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson was flawless in Game 6 and kicked away all 34 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the playoffs.
NOTES FROM LAST GAME: Not dressed for the IceCaps: Ryan Olsen, Will O’Neill, Cody Lampl, JC Lipon, Ryan Schnell, Julian Melchiori, Brandon MacLean, Austen Brassard, Jussi Olkinuora, Eddie Pasquale… St. John’s went 1-for-5 on the man advantage and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill… The IceCaps finished the series a perfect 32-for-32 on the penalty kill… Andrew Gordon saw his three-game assist streak come to an end… Molson Canadian Three Stars: 1. Michael Hutchinson 2. Eric O’Dell 3. Josh Morrissey… Mary Brown’s Hardest Working Player: Zach Redmond.
UNFAMILIAR FOE… AGAIN: For the third time in four playoff series, the IceCaps are set to face a team they did not play during the 2013-14 regular season (along with the Albany Devils and Norfolk Admirals). The Stars and IceCaps have not faced each other at all since St. John’s entered the league three seasons ago.
HOME SWEET HOME: With their series-clinching win at Mile One Centre in Game 6 against the Penguins, the IceCaps have played all three series-clinching games at home in the 2014 playoffs. All six playoff series the IceCaps have played in their brief history have ended at Mile One.
GOALTENDING: Michael Hutchinson has posted fantastic numbers through three rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs. Hutchinson ranks first in wins (11) and shutouts (3), and second in GAA (1.61), SV% (.946) and saves (459).
For the Stars, Cristopher Nilstorp has handled the bulk of the duties, going 9-4 in 14 games with a 2.14 GAA and .914 SV%. Jack Campbell has played in four games, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.54 GAA and .917 SV% before going down with an injury in the second round.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The IceCaps and Stars are close in terms of power play efficiency this postseason. St. John’s (16.9%) ranks 10th overall, while Texas (16.7%) ranks 11th. In the regular season, the IceCaps finished 13th with the man advantage (18.1%) while the Stars topped the league, scoring once every four opportunities (25.3%).
Texas also boasted a top-three unit on the penalty kill, finishing the regular season third overall (86.4%). St. John’s had the ninth-best penalty kill at 83.5%. In the playoffs, the clubs have nearly flipped. After going a perfect 32-for-32 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the IceCaps have the postseason’s top penalty killing unit (91.0%). The Stars sit ninth at 82.5%.
SCORING LEADERS: Forward Andrew Gordon leads all skaters with 16 points in the playoffs (8G, 8A). His eight goals are one off the league lead shared by his teammate, Eric O’Dell, and the Bruins’ Alexander Khokhlachev. Entering the series, D Will O’Neill has a seven-game assist streak on the road, and his 11 assists overall are first among defencemen and tied with the Stars’ Travis Morin for tops among all skaters.
The Stars’ Mike Hedden is fourth in scoring with 15 points (6G, 9A) and notched a goal and two assists in Texas’ Game 7 win over Toronto. Morin is fifth in scoring, also with 15 points (4G, 11A), but has just one assist in his last four games. F Justin Dowling, who missed seven games due to injury, returned to the lineup in Game 7 of the conference finals and posted a goal and two helpers, giving him 11 points (4G, 7A) in just nine games.
FAST FACTS: The IceCaps have scored first in 14-of-16 games this postseason, going 11-3 in those contests. Texas has opened the scoring just five times in 16 games, winning four of those. In all other games, the Stars are 7-4.
The IceCaps are 7-1 when leading after one period and 9-1 when leading after two.