IceCaps grind out win over Falcons
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps closed out their home schedule in fine fashion with a tough 4-3 triumph over the Springfield Falcons on Easter Sunday to split the two-game series at Mile One Centre.
Less than 24 hours after recording his first professional hat-trick, Eric O’Dell potted another two goals, including the game-winner, to lead St. John’s (42-23-5-3) to victory in its final home game of the 2011-12 regular season. Kevin Clark added a goal and an assist while Jason King scored his team-leading 21st tally of the year. Eddie Pasquale started between the pipes for the first time since a Mar. 24 shutout in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and made 26 saves for his 22nd win.
The IceCaps were aided by the return of defencemen Jason DeSantis and Derek Meech, a good sign for a club that has been riddled with injuries of late. DeSantis missed Friday’s contest with an upper body injury while Meech had not played since Jan. 25 and had only suited up in three games for St. John’s this season prior to Sunday’s affair. Meech’s impact was noticeable at both ends of the ice and the rearguard was recognized for his efforts by being selected the Mary Brown’s Hardest Working Player.
For coach Keith McCambridge, the hard work by a number of players was a welcome sight following the Saturday night performance – in which McCambridge decried a lack of “compete” level from a number of players.
“I thought our execution, the level with which we came out to play with was obviously a lot better than (Saturday) night,” McCambridge said following the contest. “More importantly, I thought the one-on-one battles – whether it was in our offensive battles or the defensive zone – our compete(level) on those pucks was where it’s been all season and where it needs to be against a team that’s fighting for its playoff lives.”
Meech said it felt good to be back on the ice after the long winter, but he says he’s still a ways away from being in game shape. Getting into game action prior to a playoff game, he says, was key.
“First period I ran out of gas a little bit, but come the second period I got a second wind,” Meech said. “It’s been a tough year, with back to back injuries, so it was great to get out there and compete again.”
After a scoreless first period, Springfield took a 1-0 lead at the 7:36 mark of the second on a goal by Andrew Joudrey. Sean Collins fed Joudrey in the high slot, who one-timed a shot past Pasquale high on the glove side for his third goal in two days.
St. John’s tied things up at 11:11 of the period on a nice rush by Kevin Clark. Derek Meech made an outlet pass to a streaking Clark, who busted around a defender on the right side and wristed a shot past Dainton for his 12th of the season, a power play marker to make it 1-1.
The IceCaps took the lead several minutes later on O’Dell’s 10th of the season after a nifty give-and-go with Jason DeSantis in the offensive zone. O’Dell took a return pass and slapped a shot that found the back of the net for a 2-1 IceCaps lead.
In the third, the Falcons drew even at 4:48 on a nice effort from rookie Sean Collins. After receiving a pass on the right side, Collins cut to the net and tucked a shot underneath the pad of Pasquale for his first professional goal.
Just 1:29 later, Jason King demonstrated his excellent hand-eye skills when he batted down a Falcons clearing attempt at the bottom of the circle and knocked in his team-leading 21st of the season, giving the home side a temporary 3-2 advantage.
Springfield once again knotted things up at 9:06 on a defensive breakdown by the IceCaps. Some nice passing led to a two-on-one in the IceCaps’ zone and Alex Giroux was the beneficiary of a Martin St. Pierre feed, redirecting the puck for his 27th of the season and tying the game at three with half a period to play.
That set the stage for O’Dell’s heroics. On a St. John’s power play after O’Dell was slashed in the leg by Falcons defender David Savard, the Ottawa native pounced on a loose puck in the crease banged it in for his second of the game and eventual game-winner.
With the win the IceCaps put some distance between themselves and third place Bridgeport, who had narrowed the gap to just three points heading into Sunday’s AHL action. St. John’s now holds a fivepoint advantage with three games to play. One win in the team’s final three games would clinch the number two seed heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The club will finish their regular season schedule next weekend with three games in three nights beginning in Worcester on Friday. From there, the IceCaps head to Springfield Saturday for a rematch with the Falcons and conclude the season with a stop in Manchester on Sunday.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins 30 minutes prior to puck drop.
In his first game back from a knee injury that cost him all but three games this season, D Derek Meech notched an assist and finished with two shots and a plus-1 rating. He was on the ice for all four IceCaps goals….John Albert’s second period helper gave him an assist in five consecutive games, tying a team-record set by Marco Rosa, Jason DeSantis and Paul Postma earlier this season….D Travis Ramsey was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. The veteran blueliner had played in all 72 games for St. John’s before Sunday….St. John’s native Zach O’Brien made his professional debut but was not a factor on the scoresheet, playing limited minutes for Keith McCambridge’s club….Prior to the game, the IceCaps presented their team awards for the 2011-12 season in a special pregame ceremony. Paul Postma walked away with both the MVP and Top Defenceman awards, while Eddie Pasquale won Top Rookie honours. Jason King won Community Man of the Year, while Garth Murray took home the Fans Choice Award, which was selected by fan voting through the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages….The IceCaps sold out their 38th game of the season, marking a full season of sellouts at Mile One Centre.
Photos (Jeff Parsons)