IceCaps downed by Penguins
By Chris Doyle
St. John’s, NL – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scored three shorthanded goals, including two on the same man-advantage, to defeat the St. John’s IceCaps in a wild game at Mile One Centre Saturday night.
Bryan Lerg had two goals and an assist for the Penguins (21-12-1-4), and Ben Street scored on a penalty shot in the second period after a questionable call to guide Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to victory.
Jason Gregoire, Ben Maxwell and Brett Festerling each recorded a goal and an assist for St. John’s (22-10-4-1), which has now dropped two of its last three contests on its current six-game home stand. Goaltender David Aebischer fell victim to some sloppy defensive play, getting tagged with the loss after allowing five goals on 23 shots.
The first period was conservatively played by both teams, who appeared content with feeling each other out in their first meeting of the season. The IceCaps got on the board first at the 13:12 mark when Kenndal McArdle tapped home a beautiful backhand pass from Kevin Clark for his fourth goal of the season. Garth Murray threw the puck towards the middle from the side boards and it bounced right to Clark, who deftly fed McArdle for the easy tap-in.
The Penguins tied it just 1:43 later when Lerg scored his first of two on the night, batting the puck past Aebischer on a power play after Arturs Kulda was sent to the box for high-sticking. The teams skated off tied at one after 20 minutes.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took the lead at the 7:55 mark when captain Ryan Craig was left alone at the side of the net and slid home a rebound. Zach Sill forced a turnover behind the net and barged out front, his rebound finding the stick of Craig, who made no mistake for his fourth of the season.
The lead did not last long however, as the IceCaps evened the score at 9:39 of the middle frame when a streaking Festerling got a stick on Jason King’s pass, enough to make it change direction and find the back of the net past a surprised Brad Thiessen in the Penguins net.
Things got controversial late in the second period on an IceCaps power play. Street found open ice and raced in alone on Aebischer but was slashed by Jason DeSantis in pursuit. Despite getting off a clean shot, Street was awarded a penalty shot, a call that baffled both the IceCaps and the capacity crowd at Mile One Centre. With a chorus of boos reigning down, Street converted on the penalty shot to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead, an advantage they held heading into the third period.
“I thought it was a bad call,” said head coach Keith McCambridge. “I thought the player got a great shot away. It was a borderline penalty if anything. That was disappointing it was called the way it was.”
St. John’s got a break of its own at 8:23 of the final frame when Carl Klingberg was sprung on a breakaway and hauled down from behind, resulting in the second penalty shot of the game. Klingberg had Thiessen beat but couldn’t get the puck past the goaltender’s outstretched pad. However, just 10 seconds after play resumed, Ben Maxwell knocked home a rebound from in front of the net to knot the game at three.
Unfortunately for the IceCaps, everything went downhill from there. After Cody Chupp took a boarding minor and Spencer Machacek and Brandon DeFazio dropped the gloves, the IceCaps surrendered two shorthanded goals in 21 seconds to effectively take the wind out of the sails of the home team. First, Lerg scored a pretty goal on a 2-on-1 rush when he took a feed from Street and went to the backhand to beat Aebischer. The Penguins then broke in on another odd-man rush, this time a 3-on-2, and Joey Mormina finished off the play with a wrist shot that eluded the IceCaps goaltender to extend the lead to 5-3.
“The power play had an opportunity we couldn’t grasp in the third period, and the puck went the other way and went into the back of our net twice,” said McCambridge. “That was a chance for us to get ourselves back in the game and that was the turning point.”
Gregoire scored with 5:26 to play to cut the lead to 5-4, as he found himself untouched by the side of the net and one-timed a Maxwell pass into the open cage. But the IceCaps were unable to complete the comeback, and Craig potted the empty netter with 52 seconds left in regulation to seal the victory for the Penguins.
The loss is the IceCaps’ second in the last three games, as their record falls to 3-2-0-0 on the current home stand. The IceCaps now look to rebound in an early turnaround, with a 4 p.m. start in Sunday’s rematch.
“Back-to-back starts are hard. They’re coming off a big win here tonight and we’ve got to find a way to get our energy level back to where it needs to be and get two points out of this series,” McCambridge said.
Catch all the action with Brain Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show starts at 3:30 p.m., with the drop of the puck set for 4:00 (all times Newfoundland).
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)