IceCaps blanked by red-hot Admirals
By Don Power
Director of Communications
NORFOLK, VA – The Norfolk Admirals rode the strong goaltending of Dustin Tokarski to a 2-0 shutout win over the St. John’s IceCaps Wednesday night at The Scope, running the team’s incredible winning streak to 21 games.
Special teams play was the difference for the winners, who scored once short-handed and another on the power play, both in the second period. Tyler Johnson, the game’s second star, assisted on both Norfolk goals, extending his scoring streak to 12 games.
The teams battled hard all night, as St. John’s, using a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defencemen, fired 32 shots at Tokarski, who was chosen as the game’s first star. The club’s power play, which consisted of forwards who haven’t seen much time with the man advantage, was 0-for-5 on the evening. Norfolk won the special teams battle, going 1-for-4 on the power play, and scoring that shorthanded marker.
“I think we gave them too many chances,” veteran centre Aaron Gagnon said following the game. “We had our chances too. We had some great efforts. They’re not some huge super power who can’t be beaten. I think we proved we can play, but at the same time we have to capitalize on our chances and bury them.
“We had a lot of different bodies going there (on the power play). We did have some pretty good shots, but I think, especially when you use new guys, you just have to keep it simple, get guys to the net, get pucks on him that he can’t see.”
David Aebischer got the start in the contest in the absence of Eddie Pasquale – who suffered an upper body injury in his last start – and stood the challenge of six Norfolk shots in the opening frame. The biggest chance came from the hot stick of Cory Conacher, the Admirals’ leading scorer. Conacher broke in on a breakaway and tried to deke forehand-backhand, but Aebischer got his glove on the puck to thwart the attempt.
St. John’s applied tons of pressure during the opening 20 minutes, including two power play opportunities in which the team controlled the puck but couldn’t put it past Tokarski.
“(Aebischer) kept us in that game for sure and gave us a chance to win. We’ve got to do our job on the other side and get some goals ourselves,” Gagnon said.
Norfolk opened the scoring with a short-handed effort at 13:27 of the middle frame. With teammate Scott Jackson in the penalty box serving a high sticking minor, Ondrej Palat scored against Aebischer to put Norfolk up 1-0. When the Admirals score first, the team has a stellar 33-2-1-1 record.
The second Admirals goal came on a power play. Rookie defenceman Will O’Neill – making his pro debut after four years at the University of Maine – was called for tripping and just six seconds later Richard Panik put the puck past Aebischer on a rebound to put the home team up 2-0.
Arturs Kulda was called for holding on the play as well, but the IceCaps killed off that penalty and went to the dressing room concerned for their captain Jason Jaffray, who exited the game after a crushing hit by Radko Gudas in the second period. Jaffray did not return to action for the third.
Despite a flurry of chances late in the game, the IceCaps were unable to solve Tokarski.
With the loss, the IceCaps failed to secure their first-ever playoff berth. A win would have also clinched the Atlantic Division title, as the second place Manchester Monarchs lost Wednesday, falling 4-1 to the Portland Pirates.
The IceCaps will get another crack at ending the Admirals record winning streak and clinching a playoff spot on Friday when the teams clash again at The Scope.
“Nobody was too pleased about tonight,” Gagnon said. “Hopefully next game we come out a little better. I think it’d be something else to beat that team and prove that we’re one of the better teams in this league as well.”
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This IS Newfoundland Labrador. Puck drop is set for 9:00 p.m. Newfoundland Time.
The IceCaps travelling contingent continues to grow. There are now 27 players with the club, including the team’s newest signee, Will O’Neill. A 23-year-old graduate of the University of Maine, O’Neill played four seasons for the Black Bears, his last as captain. He wore No. 23 Wednesday night… Scratches for the IceCaps included Brett Festerling, Paul Postma, Jason King – who came down with flu-like symptoms early Wednesday – Derek Meech, Eric O’Dell, Marco Rosa, Max Macenauer, Brock Trotter and Scott Zurrevinski….Carl Klingberg and Garth Murray returned to the lineup after missing two and seven games, respectively. Murray wore the ‘A’ in King’s absence.