IceCaps clinch Atlantic Division title
By Chris Doyle
It took a few tries, but the St. John’s IceCaps finally clinched a playoff spot and the Atlantic Division crown with a solid 3-2 victory over the Hershey Bears Saturday night at the Giant Center.
Patrice Cormier potted two goals for St. John’s, including a shorthanded marker in the opening frame, to lead the club to its 40th win of the season and a guaranteed top-three seeding in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs. The IceCaps become the first team since the 2002-03 Binghamton Senators to win a division title in its inaugural season.
Goaltender Chris Carrozzi, starting just his second AHL game and first with the IceCaps, was tremendous between the pipes, stopping 24-of-26 shots for his first career victory. Arturs Kulda also scored for the IceCaps, while Carl Klingberg picked up a pair of assists.
“To win the division and to get ourselves in the playoffs here is a credit to the players here,” head coach Keith McCambridge said following the game in a jubilant dressing room. “They’re a real great group to coach. They come to work every day, whether it’s practice or in games, they give you everything they have. They should be proud of themselves.”
Hershey struck first at 12:36 of the opening frame on a nice redirection by Mike Carman. Sean Collins took a quick shot from the point that Carman deftly deflected past Carrozzi, who had no chance on the play.
“I thought Carrozzi had a real good game,” McCambridge. “I liked what I saw of his game back there. I felt very comfortable (with him in goal) and I liked his game.”
St. John’s tied things up less than four minutes later while down a man. Cormier took a feed in the slot from Klingberg, and the Moncton native wired a shot high on Sabourin for his 16th of the season, tying the game at one.
The IceCaps pulled ahead midway through the second period on a breakaway goal by Kulda. As the defenceman stepped onto the ice following his tripping minor, he was fed by Zach Redmond and raced in alone, snapping a shot high on Sabourin’s blocker side for a 2-1 IceCaps lead.
St. John’s got its third goal of the game at 8:34 of the final frame when Cormier notched his second of the night and 17th of the season. Klingberg busted down the right wing and threaded a cross-ice pass to Cormier, who was barreling towards the net. The big centre shovelled the puck at on goal and it caromed off a Bears defender before ending up past Sabourin, giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.
The insurance goal proved to be huge for St. John’s, as Hershey scored with just 13 seconds left in regulation to narrow the gap to 3-2. The IceCaps couldn’t clear the defensive zone and Kyle Greentree pounced on the turnover, feeding a wide-open Ryan Potulny for his 28th of the season.
However, it was too little too late for the Bears. The IceCaps hung on for the much-deserved win, giving the team with plenty to celebrate as they head home Sunday to start their final home stand of the season. The team will have the next two days to try and rest up for the Portland Pirates, who visit Mile One Centre Tuesday and Wednesday.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador.
The IceCaps improved their stellar road record to 22-8-2-3….Carl Klingberg sported a full cage Saturday after breaking his nose in a fight Friday night with the Admirals’ Jeff Dimmen. The scrap was Klingberg’s first career fighting major….St. John’s was a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill and is 12-for-12 over the last two contests….Not dressed for the IceCaps Saturday were defencemen Brett Festerling, Derek Meech, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot and forwards Eric O’Dell, Marco Rosa, Max Macenauer, and Brock Trotter. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale was also a scratch for the third straight game after suffering an upper body injury last Saturday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton….Cormier’s two goals gave him five in four games versus the Bears this season. The centre notched a hat trick in a 6-1 IceCaps win on Mar. 9 at Mile One Centre….The IceCaps finished the season series with Hershey with a 3-1-0-0 record….Saturday’s attendance at the Giant Center was 10,080.
Game photos (courtesy JustSports Photography)