IceCaps back to winning ways
Mannino stands tall as St. John’s looks to begin new streak
By Chris Doyle
A night after suffering their first loss since October 29, the St. John’s IceCaps responded with a solid effort in a 3-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals Saturday night at Mile One Centre.
Peter Mannino was sharp between the pipes for St. John’s, stopping 35-of-36 shots – including 18 in the third period. He was especially sharp in the dying minutes, denying the Admirals on several scoring chances down the stretch to preserve the win, his second in two games since being returned to St. John’s by Winnipeg last week.
Just as important as the two points, at least for head coach Keith McCambridge, was the way his club responded to Friday’s defeat. McCambridge use the word “disappointing” in describing the IceCaps effort Friday. Saturday night was a different story.
“The biggest thing from tonight’s game was the response,” McCambridge said. “I thought our team, after a sub-par performance last night, came out to play to the capabilities that we played in the past. We did a lot of good things. The biggest turning point from last night was the response.”
Riley Holzapfel got things started just 2:05 into the first period with his seventh goal of the season, a power play marker to give the IceCaps an early 1-0 lead. Holzapfel took a perfect pass from Carl Klingberg while streaking in off the wing and roofed a shot past Admirals goalie Dustin Tokarski for the game’s first goal.
St. John’s added to its lead late in the first off a turnover by the Admirals deep in their own zone. An errant pass found the stick of Spencer Machacek, who was on the doorstep and made no mistake in burying his third of the season. Despite the two-goal lead, Norfolk outshot St. John’s 12-9 after one period, using an aggressive forecheck to hem the IceCaps in their own zone.
Norfolk’s efforts paid off early in the second period when sparkplug – and the game’s third star – Cory Conacher forced a neutral zone turnover and drove hard to the net, wristing a shot past Mannino to bring the Admirals to within a goal. The IceCaps had several chances to add to their lead throughout the period on the power play but failed to convert, and the home team headed to the dressing room up 2-1.
In the third, Garth Murray’s hard work finally paid off as he notched his first goal as an IceCap at the 2:18 mark to give St. John’s a two-goal cushion. The game’s second star, Murray was the recipient of a beautiful pass by linemate Kevin Clark, who threaded the puck through a defender and onto Murray’s stick on a two-on-one.
“Garth is a heart and soul guy,” the head coach said. “He blocks shots. You saw him last night come to the aid of his teammates. He kills penalties. He’s out there against the other team’s top line, so he’s been real good for us this season, and to see him get rewarded by putting it in the back of the net is a credit to the way he’s playing.”
“It’s good to get one in a big game, a tight game,” Murray told the media after the game. “They’re a solid hockey team and every goal helps, especially at that point in the game. I’m not a guy who sits and worries about scoring goals. If I get one, I get one. I’d rather just as much an assist, a hit or a blocked shot. But I’ll take it, that’s for sure.”
“Murray’s just a wily vet,” Mannino said of his teammate. “He had a ’fro at one time, right. The guy’s done everything. But it shows our depth. To be successful you need guys in every role and Muzz puts forth 100 per cent every night. It’s something we feed off of, no question. We’re going to be successful because of players like him.”
The Admirals pressed hard late in the third but came up short, as No. 1 star Mannino made several key stops in the final minutes.
“Peter’s whole game was really good,” McCambridge said. “I thought he battled hard to find pucks coming in from the point; they had a lot of traffic in front of the net.
“He’s an emotional guy and plays on that edge. That’s what gets him into the game and it’s something I’m fine with. But Peter was very strong for us and he was the difference for us in the game tonight.”
Like Friday’s game, Saturday night’s affair was filled with animosity right from the opening faceoff. IceCaps centre Patrice Cormier and Admirals defenceman Mike Vernace tangled just 3:40 into the game, with Vernace getting the extra two minutes for roughing. In all, the teams combined for 40 minutes in penalties, with St. John’s going 1-for5 on the power play and shutting out Norfolk on two chances with the man advantage.
Kenndal McArdle played his first game in an IceCaps uniform. After being assigned from Winnipeg Friday, the former first round draft pick didn’t arrive in St. John’s until the wee hours of Saturday morning. Considering the travel and quick turnaround to get to a game day skate, McArdle acquitted himself quite nicely.
With the win, the IceCaps find themselves 10 points up on Manchester and Providence for first place in the Atlantic Division (both teams were in action Saturday night). St. John’s also maintains its lead in the Eastern Conference and is two points ahead of Oklahoma City for the best record in the AHL.
The IceCaps and Admirals played in front of a capacity crowd once again, the 10th consecutive sellout to start the season for St. John’s. Saturday night’s announced crowd was 6,287, putting the IceCaps total attendance at more than 63,000 after the first 10 games at Mile One Centre.
The next action for St. John’s comes next Friday and Saturday when the IceCaps host the Toronto Marlies for two games, the first two meeting between the teams this season. Fans can catch all the action with IceCaps broadcaster Brian Rogers on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador and online at www.stjohnsicecaps.com. Pregame show starts at 7:00 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 7:30.