Game 4 Preview: IceCaps vs. Crunch
The St. John’s IceCaps can continue their storybook inaugural season and advance to the second round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs with a win Friday night at Mile One Centre, as they take on the Syracuse Crunch in Game 4 of their best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Tied 1-1 heading into Wednesday night’s pivotal Game 3, the IceCaps fed off a whiteout-infused home crowd to record a 5-1 victory. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale was sensational, stopping 40 shots for his second win in just three career playoff starts, while defenceman Derek Meech once again proved his worth, notching his second two-point effort of the series with the game’s winning goal plus an assist.
The biggest difference in the series so far has been goaltending. The IceCaps are one win away from advancing despite being outshot in all three games by a combined margin of 118-88. Pasquale, an AHL All-Rookie Team selection at the end of the regular season, has looked poised and confident in between the pipes. His counterpart, fellow rookie Iiro Tarkki, has been somewhat shaky, allowing three goals or more in all three contests including five on 38 shots in Game 3.
The Crunch’s top scoring duo of Kyle Palmieri and Patrick Maroon has been fairly quiet overall. After combining for 55 goals in the regular season, Palmieri’s Game 1 power play tally stands as the only marker for the pair. Maroon is pointless in the series with a minus-3 rating while Palmieri sits at minus-5 through three games.
On the flip side, the IceCaps have been getting contributions from multiple lines, in particular the unit of Jason King, Aarong Gagnon and Ben Maxwell. The veteran unit has scored five of the team’s 12 goals in the series, while Gagnon’s four points are tied for tops on the team with Meech. The line of Spencer Machacek, Patrice Cormier and Brock Trotter has also provided solid offensive contributions. Cormier and Trotter both scored on Wednesday, and Machacek has an assist in all three games of the series.
But the club’s most effective thus far line could very well be the checking line of John Albert, Garth Murray and Ray Sawada. The trio has provided solid play in all three zones and managed to get on the score sheet in the third period Wednesday on a nicely executed two-on-one rush that saw Sawada feed Albert for his first career playoff goal. Sawada was rewarded for his efforts with the Mary Brown’s Hardest Working Player award.
“They were really good,” said head coach Keith McCambridge. “I thought they were a factor in the game. They provided energy. I thought you need that out of that line, that energy, that physicality.”
Game 4 is expected to feature a crowd that should be even more energetic than Wednesday night’s. The players and coaches agreed that having the additional help from the home faithful is huge this time of year.
“I believe they were a factor in tonight’s game, without a doubt,” McCambridge said. “You could feel the energy in warm-up. You could feel the energy from the start of the game, the excitement, the intensity. Everything you could want from a Canadian market on your home ice we had tonight, and then some.”
The “Whiteout” continues Friday night, as fans are once again asked to dress in white clothing and be loud in cheering on their home team.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show starts at 7:00 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 7:30 (all times Newfoundland).