IceCaps can’t close out series as Penguins force Game 7
Deciding game goes Saturday at Mile One Centre
By Chris Doyle
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forced a seventh and deciding game with a 4-2 victory over the St. John’s IceCaps in Game 6 Friday night at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
Up 2-1 late the second period, the IceCaps got into penalty trouble and surrendered the tying goal with just nine seconds left in the frame. Zach Sill notched the game-winner on a redirect in front of the net at 5:41 of the third and Paul Thompson silenced the crowd with insurance marker with 3:30 remaining in regulation.
For the IceCaps, Eddie Pasquale played well-enough to win, making key saves to keep the IceCaps in it, but allowed four goals on 31 shots to take the loss. Patrice Cormier and Ray Sawada scored for the home side.
The loss means the teams return to Mile One Saturday night for Game 7. The Penguins have momentum on their side, while the IceCaps have home ice advantage. Which one works better will be unveiled Saturday.
“The problem is that Wilkes-Barre wants to win also,” head coach Keith McCambridge said following the loss. “These are two very good teams that are playing some strong hockey right now. And this is why you play all season long. You play to have Game 7 on your home ice. We have that opportunity (Saturday).
“You have Game 7. You’re on your home ice. The two teams have played each other pretty closely, close tight-knit games. We went in their building and won two of three, and came home and talked about winning one of two. That’s still the case.”
“You’ve gotta give them a lot of credit,” said defenceman Paul Postma. “They’re a really good team and they’re not gonna back down. Obviously the last game of the series is the hardest to win. We want to close it out, but they’re not going to go down with a fight.”
St. John’s managed to get out of the first period down just 1-0 despite a sloppy opening 20 minutes. With Ben Maxwell in the box for holding, Jason Williams opened the scoring on the ensuing power play on a blast from the point that was partially blocked n front but found the back of the net.
St. John’s drew even at 4:31 of the second on a power play goal by Cormier. Parked in front of the net, Cormier deflected a Paul Postma point shot past Thiessen for the equalizer.
Sawada gave the IceCaps a 2-1 lead midway through the period on yet another power play. The big forward jammed home a rebound after a shot by Derek Meech at the point, sending the capacity crowd into a frenzy.
Things looked good for the home team until it got into penalty trouble towards the end of the frame. With Brett Festerling already in the box, Penguins’ forward Eric Tangradi took an interference call to negate the power play. However, just 15 seconds later, Cormier took a slashing penalty to give the visitors a four-on-three advantage. Then, in an attempt to clear the zone, Aaron Gagnon fired the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game infraction, continuing the parade to the box.
The Penguins capitalized with just nine seconds remaining in the frame when Alex Grant’s one-timer from the point was stopped by Pasquale and the rebound bounced right to Cal O’Reilly at the side of the net. O’Reilly made no mistake in burying the loose puck, sending the IceCaps to the dressing room on a sour note
“The power play goal against at the end of the second was a real momentum killer for us,” McCambridge said. “But overall, some penalties you just can’t take this time of the year.”
In the third, the Penguins’ relentless forecheck was too much for the IceCaps to handle. Sill’s winning goal came on a deflection after Geoff Walker spun and fired the puck towards the net from the bottom of the right circle.
Thompson added the insurance marker when an errant pass by an IceCaps forward got past Postma at the offensive blueline. Thompson picked up the puck and raced in off the left wing, going to the backhand and sliding the puck underneath Pasquale’s pads.
With the series now tied at three, the IceCaps will be forced to use their home-ice advantage to the fullest extent when they host the Penguins for Game 7 Saturday night. Join play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on the radio at 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Fans can see the game live on Rogers TV and streaming online at www.ahllive.com.
The winner of Saturday’s Game 7 will face the Norfolk Admirals in the Eastern Conference Final, who edged the Connecticut Whale 2-1 in overtime Friday to win the series 4-2. The Western Conference Final features the Toronto Marlies and Oklahoma City Barons….Both teams’ power plays came alive Friday night. St. John’s went 2-for-5 while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went 2-for-6….Jason King led the team with six shots on goal….Spencer Machacek’s second period assist gives him seven this postseason, tying him with Paul Postma for the team lead….The IceCaps have a combined 25 points from their defencemen in the playoffs, including eight apiece from Postma and Derek Meech….Friday’s 50/50 prize was a season-high $22,512….The capacity crowd was the 43rd straight sellout of Mile One Centre this season.