Depleted IceCaps earn tough point in Syracuse
Photos courtesy Syracuse Crunch
Crunch extends St. John’s losing streak to four games with 5-4 shootout win.
By Don Power
Director of Communications
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A gritty effort by an undermanned squad wasn’t enough to earn a victory, but the St. John’s IceCaps moved closer to a playoff position with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Syracuse Crunch here Friday night.
With 10 regulars out of the lineup through injury or call-ups, St. John’s rebounded from an early 2-0 deficit to push the Crunch to the shootout, scoring three first period goals in 3:24.
Jason King and Jason DeSantis each had a goal and assist for the IceCaps, who now have lost four straight games, their longest losing streak of the season. John Albert, short-handed, and Patrice Cormier had the other St. John’s goals.
“We were looking for two and we got one out of it,” King said after the contest. “We really had to dig deep. As everybody knows, our lineup is pretty scarce of regulars and we really have to battle for every inch on ice. We got down quick and really had to fight our way back into it. We showed a lot of character in doing that. We can take a lot of positives from that.”
The IceCaps dug themselves another hole at the start of a contest in this one, allowing a Syracuse goal just 1:08 into the opening period. Former IceCap Riley Holzapfel scored his 14th of the season. Holzapfel was parked to the left of David Aebischer and stuffed home a pass from JF Jacques to open scoring and start off a wild period of hockey.
Syracuse went up 2-0 at 3:28 on Jacques’ 20th marker of the season, coming on a Crunch power play, with John Negrin in the penalty box for interference.
Patrice Cormier got the IceCaps on the board with a solo effort, walking out from behind the net to tuck the puck past Crunch starter Iiro Tarkki. The unassisted marker came at 3:50, and set off a string of three goals in three minutes and 24 seconds to put St. John’s out in front.
John Albert scored short-handed for St. John’s – the league-leading 13th time Syracuse has allowed a short-handed goal this season – at 6:00. The rookie from Cleveland picked up a rebound off a Travis Ramsey shot and buried it past Tarkki for his seventh goal of the year.
And then at 8:14, Jason King became the first 20-goal scorer in IceCaps history with a power play goal, his team-leading eighth of the season. King was left alone in the slot and made a nice deke on Tarkki, not only putting the IceCaps up 3-2, but sending Tarkki to the bench, and bringing out Russian rookie netminder Igor Bobkov.
The big goalie (six-foot-six, 228 pounds) led Russia to the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship this past season, beating Canada in the championship game. He turned away all four shots he faced in the opening frame.
Aebischer made several big stops in the first, in which he faced 19 shots in total. The start for Aebischer was his first since a March 3 appearance here in Syracuse against these same opponents. However, it would be an early night for the Swiss goalie, as Eddie Pasquale was tasked with carrying the club through the final 45 minutes and the shootout.
Jason DeSantis scored the only goal of the second period, that coming on a late power play. The Michigan native fired a slapshot from the point past Bobkov to tie the score at four, taking a feed from King. In fact, it was an all-Jason goal, as Jaffray was credited with the second assist on the marker.
A strong period by the IceCaps in the third period failed to produce any more goals, and the teams headed to overtime tied 4-4. The extra period solved nothing, except to show the resolve of the St. John’s penalty killers. Patrice Cormier, Jason Jaffray and Kulda successfully killed off the 4-on-3 power play, forcing the teams to a shootout.
In that, Patrick Maroon faked a shot and slid the puck between Pasquale’s legs for one goal. Then Luca Caputi scored on a wrist shot to the block side of Pasquale, sending the home team to the dressing room victorious. None of the four IceCap shooters managed to find the back of the net.
“We’re at that point in the season where we are facing a bit of adversity,” King said. “Guys are battling hard. Guys are getting the job done. We had a couple of fights, we had a lot of blocked shots and a lot of penalty kills.
“We get down and we’re never out. It seems like we always stay with it and clawed our way back into it somehow. Even with the depleted lineup, we still found a way to get ourselves back into the game. It’s a tough point to lose.”
However, the point picked up by St. John’s puts them a little closer to clinching their playoff position, as the club’s magic number to clinch gets reduced, depending on other games Friday night.
The club now travels to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a Saturday night game against the Penguins, before heading to Norfolk Sunday for a pair of games next week.
Catch all the action with broadcaster Brian Rogers on www.stjohnsicecaps.com and This is Newfoundland Labrador 930 AM Radio.