Crunch turn tables on IceCaps
Third period comeback falls short in 5-3 loss
It was a reversal of fortunes for the IceCaps Wednesday night.
A day after St. John’s managed to squeak out a 4-3 victory, the Crunch built an early lead and held on for a 5-3 win at Mile One Centre in front of a 14th straight capacity crowd.
The IceCaps had trouble staying out of the penalty box all night and it cost them. St. John’s allowed a pair of power play goals in six opportunities and Kyle Palmieri recorded a hat-trick, including a power play tally in the opening frame, to lead the offence for the Crunch.
The IceCaps’ loss means St. John’s has split six of the seven home series played at Mile One, and leaves the club with a 7-5-2-0 home mark. The only series sweep by the IceCaps was against the Connecticut Whale Nov. 12 and 13. The win-one, lose-one scenario is frustrating for a club looking to be better at home.
“It’s your mindset,” said head coach Keith McCambridge. “The team that wins the first game lays off the gas potentially in the second game. You saw what happened here: they come out with a push. They’re hungry to get their points out of this building.
“The mindset has to be making sure you win that first game, and then making sure you’re having a real strong push (in the second game). You have to have a real strong start to the game. Our start tonight wasn’t good.
“Our season consists of 19 back-to-back series. We’ve got to find a way to get back-to-back wins. The biggest thing for us is realizing this is what we do. Being in St. John’s, teams come in for two-game sets. We have to find a way to win these back-to-back games.”
Palmieri got things started for Syracuse in the first when he fired a laser past IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale at 8:08, as he pulled the trigger with a quick release on a pass by Patrick Maroon from behind the net to give the Crunch an early 1-0 lead. Palmieri then notched his second of the period and 16th of the season with the man advantage on a pass from Peter Holland. The Crunch would take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 20 minutes of play.
The second period proved to be a little better for St. John’s. Kevin Clark pulled the IceCaps to within one with a well-placed shot over the blocker of Crunch goaltender Jeff Deslauriers at 5:16 of the second period. Clark carried the puck over the blueline on his off wing and snapped a wrist shot past a defender and into the back of the net.
The two-goal lead was restored just over a minute later when Palmieri recorded his third point of the night, shovelling a pass to Holland at the side of the net, who made no mistake beating Pasquale for his seventh of the season.
The IceCaps responded at 14:49 to pull within a goal once again as Zach Redmond found Paul Postma in the slot, who buried a wrist shot past Deslauriers to make it 3-2. The goal was Postma’s fourth of the season and second since being reassigned to the IceCaps on Nov. 18.
Palmieri capped off his impressive night with his third goal of the game – and fourth point – at 4:52 of the third. Palmieri picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and coasted in on a partial breakaway, snapping a low shot past Pasquale. His three goals on the night gave him 17 on the season and moved him into sole possession of the AHL goal-scoring lead.
“Palmieri is one of the top players in the league,” said Kevin Clark. “He can shoot that puck right away and you need to be aware of him when he’s on the ice.
Things looked bleak for St. John’s until Crunch forward Rick Schofield was penalized for delay of game at the 17:20 mark after flipping the puck over the glass. The IceCaps capitalized with the man advantage when Aaron Gagnon tipped a Jason DeSantis point shot over the glove hand of Deslauriers to make it a 4-3 game with 2:19 remaining in regulation time, igniting the home crowd.
The IceCaps pressed hard for the tie but fell short, despite the cries of the 6,287 in attendance. Brandon McMillan sealed the victory with an empty netter at 19:03, sending the IceCaps faithful home disappointed.
All the offence for the Crunch was supplied by the line of Palmieri, Holland and Patrick Maroon. The trio combined for all four goals, with Palmieri and Holland totalling seven points on the night. Gagnon had a goal and an assist for the IceCaps, while winger Kenndal McArdle picked up a pair of assists. Pasquale stopped 30-of-34 shots in the loss, his third straight overall. Crunch goaltender Deslauriers was sharp all night long, making several big saves, including a huge pad save towards the end of the second period to preserve the lead going into the final frame.
There were two new faces in the IceCaps lineup Wednesday night. Defenceman Brett Festerling played his first game since Nov. 1 when he was recalled to Winnipeg. Meanwhile, forward Ben Maxwell played despite flying overnight from Los Angeles Dec. 6-7 to get to John’s.
The loss ends the IceCaps win streak at three games heading into a weekend series with division rival Worcester at Mile One Centre in St. John’s. The Sharks and IceCaps met twice early in November, with St. John’s coming away with 6-3 and 3-1 victories on the road in Worcester.
Catch all the action with Brian Rogers online at www.stjohnsicecaps.com or on the radio, 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins a half hour before puck drop.
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)