IceCaps earn dramatic win over Monarchs
Albert’s late-game heroics give St. John’s a 3-2 win
By Chris Doyle
John Albert potted the game-winning goal with 42 seconds remaining in regulation to give the St. John’s IceCaps a 3-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs in an exhilarating game Saturday night at Mile One Centre. The victory gave the IceCaps a two-game series sweep and a three-point lead atop the Atlantic Division.
Spencer Machacek and Jason Gregoire added goals for St. John’s (21-8-4-1), and David Aebischer stopped 14-of-16 shots for his 10th win of the season. Aebischer was not tested often but was sharp once again, winning his eighth decision in his last nine starts.
The IceCaps controlled the play against the Monarchs for most of the game, again outshooting Manchester by a wide margin. (St. John’s outshot Manchester 47-25 in the series opener, a 4-2 IceCaps win.) Monarchs’ goaltender Martin Jones was sharp, stopping 33 shots in taking the loss.
“Two wins is huge,” said first star John Albert. “They’re a great team. We haven’t been able to close out (a series) at home and it’s great to be able to do it for our fans.”
For the second night in a row, Manchester got on the board first with a goal just 4:15 into the opening frame. The IceCaps turned the puck over deep in the defensive zone and the Monarchs capitalized, as Rob Mignardi swept home a rebound at the side of the net for the game’s opening goal.
It took just the IceCaps just 1:26 in the second period to tie the game. Spencer Machacek took a feed from Paul Postma in the neutral zone and sliced his way through the Manchester defence, wristing a shot on a net and banging his own rebound past Jones for his ninth of the season. Machacek was all over the ice for St. John’s for the second consecutive night, and was rewarded with the game’s second star honours. The Lethbridge, AB native fired a team-high nine shots at the Manchester goal, and finished the series with 17 shots.
Ben Maxwell was lost to the club at 12:15 of the second period when he hit Mignardi into the boards from behind, earning a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. However, the IceCaps were able to kill off the entire man advantage, and even managed to create some scoring chances. Neither team was able to find the back of the net for the rest of the frame.
“(The five-minute penalty kill of Maxwell’s penalty) was the turning point for us,” head coach Keith McCambridge said. “It could have gone the other way. We killed it off and got some momentum, got some energy and kept rolling from there. It could have been a negative, but we got a real strong performance from our killers.”
The IceCaps took the lead at the 5:26 mark of the third, when Jason Gregoire picked off an errant pass in the Monarchs zone and waltzed towards the net, going to the backhand and lifting a shot just under the glove of Jones for his second of the season. The line of Gregoire, Kevin Clark and Eric O’Dell proved to be a thorn in the side of the Monarchs all weekend long, forechecking hard and generating plenty of scoring chances.
Things looked under control for St. John’s until Jason DeSantis took a questionable slashing penalty late in the period. On the ensuing power play, with just 2:31 left in regulation, the Monarchs’ Dwight King took a feed from behind the net and converted for his seventh goal, tying the contest at two.
However, Albert played hero in the final minute of the third when the Monarchs once again turned the puck over in their own zone. Albert took two steps and wristed a shot that found the back of the net behind Jones for his fourth goal of the season.
“It was a really high calibre American Hockey League game,” McCambridge said following the win. “Those divisional games are always four point games so it was nice to make some ground up top.”
The IceCaps have now won five-of-six and find themselves two points up on the Hershey Bears for first in the Eastern Conference. Fans continue to pack Mile One Centre; the Winnipeg Jets’ affiliate has now sold out all 18 home games this season.
The next action for St. John’s comes this Tuesday and Wednesday when the IceCaps host the Toronto Marlies. Toronto holds a 3-1-1 advantage in the season series thus far, and was the last team to beat St. John’s, when it snapped the IceCaps 15-game road point streak on New Year’s Day in Toronto.
Tune in to the broadcast with Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins at 7:00 with the drop of the puck set for 7:30 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)