IceCaps clip Marlies
Team rebounds with solid 3-2 victory to split series
By Chris Doyle
St. John’s, NL – The St. John’s IceCaps rebounded after a sub-par performance a night earlier to beat the Toronto Marlies 3-2 at Mile One Centre Wednesday night.
Jason King’s team-leading 12th goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner, and David Aebischer bounced back after being pulled in Tuesday’s loss, making 23 saves to record his 11th win of the season. Jason Jaffray and Shawn Weller added goals for St. John’s (22-9-4-1), which extended its lead atop the Atlantic Division to five points over the Manchester Monarchs.
“I’m pleased with the way we responded with a sub-par game last night, and got back to what our strengths are,” head coach Keith McCambridge said. “I was pleased to get the two points.”
The win avenges Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in which the IceCaps were out-played and out-worked. But it was a different IceCaps roster that came roaring out of the gate in the first period.
“We came out right from the first shift and I thought we controlled the game,” team captain Jason Jaffray said following the contest. “You could sense the desperation in our team. That’s the thing with these back-to-back games, no team wants to lose two straight. We proved right from the start (Wednesday) that we were the more desperate team.
“We were good tonight; good enough to get two points.”
That desperation manifested in the first goal of the game for the IceCaps, unlike the past three games on the homestand. Weller parked himself in front of Marlies goaltender Mark Owuya and buried a rebound at the 6:09 mark of the opening frame. The goal was Weller’s sixth of the season and third in four games since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games. The IceCaps took a 1-0 lead into the dressing room, outshooting the Marlies 17-6 and controlling the play for most of the period.
Early in the second, the Marlies received some offence from an unlikely source. Agitator Kyle Neuber, known more for his bowling-ball antics than his soft hands, was sent in alone on the right side and patiently outwaited Aebischer, deking to his right and sliding the puck into the empty cage to tie the score at one. The goal was Neuber’s first point of the season in 26 games.
The IceCaps regained the lead at the 10:33 mark when some good work down low resulted in Kevin Clark feeding Jaffray at the top of the circle, who ripped a slap shot high blocker-side for his 10th goal of the season. Jaffray finished the night with a goal and two assists and was named the game’s first star.
Just 19 seconds into the third period, King gave the IceCaps a two-goal cushion when he corralled the puck at the right hash marks and fired a wrist shot off the post and in behind Owuya. The Marlies added a goal late in the third when Greg Scott one-timed a no-look pass from Jerry D’Amigo with the extra attacker on the ice, but St. John’s survived the scare to hang on for its third victory in four games on its six-game homestand.
“The teams see where we’re sitting in the standings and they want to bring their ‘A’ game – and they do,” McCambridge said of the jump visiting teams get at Mile One. “We have to make sure we’re up to the task. There are no easy games. I don’t expect to have any easy games all season, but the biggest thing on our side was the difference from last night where we didn’t have the execution we needed to tonight where we did have the execution, we had the effort. We had everything needed to win games during the season.”
The IceCaps and Marlies have now played seven of their eight meetings this season, with the final matchup between the teams set for Feb. 18 at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. St. John’s is 3-4-0-0 in the season series, with two of the three victories coming on the road.
“You learn to hate teams like this, even though they’re out of conference,” Jaffray said. “Playing in Manitoba the past five year, I’ve seen a lot of the Toronto Marlies.”
Next up for the IceCaps is a two-game set with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this weekend at Mile One Centre, the first meetings between the teams.
Catch all the action with Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Saturday’s contest starts at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday’s tilt is a 4:00 p.m. matinee affair (all times Newfoundland). Pregame show begins a half hour before puck drop.
Winnipeg Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was on hand to take in the series versus the Marlies….Since returning from Winnipeg Dec. 28, Jaffray has notched 10 points (3g, 7a) in seven games, and has seven points in four games vs. the Marlies….Zach Redmond was a healthy scratch for the contest, replaced by rookie Ben Chiarot, who played just his 11th game. He sat out the previous 11 games, playing last against Syracuse Dec. 6….Wednesday night’s 50/50 draw was an impressive $15,198, the highest since a guaranteed $15k promotion back in December….The IceCaps improved to 15-2-0-0 when leading after two periods and 8-1-4-1 in one-goal games….With Wednesday’s sellout, St. John’s has sold out all 20 home games so far this season.
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)