IceCaps defeat Crunch
Ride four-goal second period to third straight victory
The St. John’s IceCaps used a four-goal second period to narrowly defeat the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 at Mile One Centre Tuesday night.
Aaron Gagnon, Kenndal McArdle, Patrice Cormier and Zach Redmond all scored in the middle frame to lead St. John’s to victory. David Aebischer made 25 saves to notch his third consecutive win.
It was another strong night for the IceCaps on the power play. The club scored three times with the extra man, all in the middle frame. Aaron Gagnon started things off when he banged a rebound past goaltender Iiro Tarkki on the power play at 5:55 to tie the game at one. Just 42 seconds later, Kenndal McArdle picked up his second goal of the season – also on the power play – when he shovelled the puck past Tarkki after a Jason King chance in front of the net. Then, on a two-on-one just 21 seconds later, Patrice Cormier made no mistake on a beautiful setup by Kevin Clark to make it 3-1. The three goals came just 63 seconds apart and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
Redmond capped off the scoring for St. John’s at 12:20 of the second when he slid one through Tarkki along the ice from the right circle for the IceCaps third power play goal of the game. St. John’s has now gone six for its last 13 with the man advantage, finishing the night 3-for-7.
“Right now, (the power play) is just clicking,” said King, the game’s first star, who had two assists. “We’re really getting used to our system, where guys are going to be. We’re getting pucks at the net and we’re getting bounces. Early in the season (when the team was near the bottom of the league in PP stats), the power play was good, but we just weren’t getting the bounces. When it turns you have to take advantage of it. Lately, the power play has been a big part of our wins.”
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge concurred with King regarding the familiarity aspect of the power play. Early in the season, players were unfamiliar with each other and still working on the system implemented. Now, he says, you can see the work paying off.
“You have two units, where I think at the beginning of the year they were getting to know each other,” McCambridge said after the contest. “It’s just them getting a feel for each other. They’re reading off each other; they know where each other is going to be on the ice. They’re having success.”
Syracuse got things started in the first period when Nicolas Deschamps tapped home a loose puck past Aebischer, who was unaware it popped out behind him. The first period saw the IceCaps outshoot the Crunch 16-6, but Tarkki stood tall in the crease for Syracuse to keep the score 1-0 heading into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
In the third, Syracuse cut the lead in half at the 6:25 mark when Kyle Palmieri snapped a wicked wrist shot past Aebischer high on the glove side. Palmieri’s goal was his team-leading 14th of the season, moving him one behind Oklahoma City’s Philippe Cornet for the league lead. The Crunch closed the gap to one with less than four minutes remaining when Brandon McMillan one-timed a Mark Bell pass from behind the net that found the twine. That was as close as the Crunch would get however, as the IceCaps clamped down in the final minutes to hang on for the 4-3 win.
The win was the IceCaps’ 15th of the season and seventh in the last 10 games. St. John’s has won three straight overall and continues to sit atop the Eastern Conference with 34 points, three up on the Connecticut Whale.
The IceCaps will welcome back defenceman Brett Festerling, who was reassigned to St. John’s prior to Tuesday’s game and may be in the lineup. Ben Maxwell, claimed on waivers by the Jets on Tuesday, will also report to St. John’s and arrive Wednesday afternoon. That leaves McCambridge with some decisions to make on personnel.
With injuries and call-ups to Winnipeg, some players – Eric O’Dell, Shayne Wiebe and defenceman Jake Marto to name just three – have stepped in to provide solid play. Determining who sits and who plays makes for tougher coaching calls.
“It’s harder without a doubt,” McCambridge said. “Those players have really put a stamp on what we thought of them as players. O’Dell, Wiebe tonight, really strong. Marto’s coming in and moved himself from a No. 7, No. 6 (defenceman) to a No. 2. So it makes the decisions hard, but those are decisions you want to have to make. When you make those tough decisions, you know your team is getting stronger.”
The two teams will meet again Wednesday night at Mile One Centre as they close out a two-game series. Catch all the action with Brian Rogers live at www.stjohnsicecaps.com or on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins at 7:00 p.m. with the puck drop set for 7:30 p.m.
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)