Game 3 Preview: IceCaps vs. Crunch
The wait is almost over for fans of the St. John’s IceCaps.
Wednesday night, the IceCaps return home for their first-ever playoff game at Mile One Centre in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Syracuse Crunch.
The best-of-five series is knotted at one game apiece after the teams split a pair of contests in Syracuse this past weekend.
On Friday, St. John’s rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third period to take Game 1 by a final of 3-2 and open up a 1-0 series lead. Eddie Pasquale was outstanding in making 35 saves for the win while Corner Brook, NL native Jason King provided the heroics with just 1:22 remaining in regulation time. Derek Meech added a goal and an assist for the visitors.
The following night, the IceCaps nearly came back once again but were thwarted by an unlucky bounce midway through the third period in a 4-3 loss that evened the series at one. On a Crunch power play, Kyle Palmieri sent a pass out front that caromed off Brandon McMillan’s skate and eluded Pasquale for the eventual game-winner. Pasquale was once again busy, facing 40 shots for the first time all season long.
One takeaway from the opening two games is the struggling IceCaps power play unit. After going 0-for-5 in the Game 1 victory, the club did manage to find the net once in three attempts Saturday but has not produced consistent quality scoring chances with the man advantage. The Crunch has fared slightly better, managing two goals on eight chances but looking more dangerous overall.
Centre Aaron Gagnon has been red hot through two games. The Quesnel, BC native has scored three of the IceCaps’ six goals, including the lone power play marker. A playoff veteran – he has played in 40 career postseason games before into this series – Gagnon has been a key cog of a formidable top line that includes King and Ben Maxwell. The line has combined for four goals and six points in the two games.
Wednesday’s lineup could have a number of different looks. After playing in Game 1, pesky winger Kevin Clark and veteran defenceman Travis Ramsey were scratches for Game 2, with Max Macenauer and All-Star Zach Redmond taking their places, respectively.
The IceCaps will also have Winnipeg Jets top draft pick Mark Scheifele available to them for Game 3. Scheifele, who finished his junior season with the Barrie Colts last week after being eliminated by the Ottawa 67’s, joined the team Monday upon its return to St. John’s. It is uncertain whether or not the 19-year-old will dress, but he presents an interesting option for McCambridge.
Syracuse may receive a boost from the return of skilled forward Peter Holland. The rookie missed the first two games of the series as well as the season finale with a concussion, but has accompanied the team to St. John’s in hopes of getting back in the lineup. Holland finished the regular season with 60 points (23G, 47A) in 71 games, fourth best among all first-year players.
The Crunch made one trip to St. John’s in the regular season for a two-game series at Mile One back in early December, leaving with a split. The IceCaps have won just five of their last 10 games at home dating back to March 9.
Fans are asked to “Wear White and Be Loud” to help create the “Whiteout” effect that the parent Winnipeg Jets made famous in the 1980s as a way to create a tough place for the visiting team to play.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins at 7:00 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 7:30 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).