IceCaps Insider: When stars align Posted by IceCaps on
Beskorowany, Meech facing former teams in Calder Cup Finals
To say the Texas Stars and St. John’s IceCaps are unfamiliar foes is an understatement.
For the third time in four playoff series, the IceCaps face a team they did not play during the 2013-14 regular season and this time, it’s for the biggest prize in the American Hockey League, the Calder Cup.
In fact, the IceCaps and Stars have never faced each other in the entire existence of the St. John’s franchise.
Not even once.
While it’s easy to assume that connections and storylines between these two teams would be scarce because they play on different sides of the continent, a large number of 2014 Calder Cup opponents have shared an ice surface as teammates at one point or another in their careers.
In the junior ranks, the IceCaps’ JC Lipon and the Stars’ Brendan Ranford were both point-per-game forwards for the Kamloops Blazers in 2012-13, while Adam Lowry and Justin Dowling formed a similar duo for the Swift Current Broncos in 2010-11.
At the pro level, 2014 regular season leading scorer Travis Morin took his first strides in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 on a Hershey Bears roster that featured IceCaps leading scorer Andrew Gordon.
Both team captains are familiar with one another as Jason Jaffray and Maxime Fortunus were teammates with the IceCaps’ predecessor Manitoba Moose.
IceCaps goaltender Tyler Beskorowany played in 51 contests over two seasons for the Texas Stars and knows first-hand the style of play to expect from this Stars squad that led the league with 106 points in the regular season.
“They’re a powerhouse,” he said.
“Just look at the shots they had against Toronto. They’re a high offense team that knows how to create plays. They have a lot of guys that can make those plays across the ice, like saucer passes. They got guys that can put the puck in the net too. It’s going to be a battle.”
Rosters change over time but Beskorowany admits there are a dozen or so guys remaining from his days with Texas in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He keeps in touch with former goaltending partner Jack Campbell but doesn’t expect to see too much of him once the championship series begins.
“Once you get on the ice, there are no more friends,” he said with a smile.
“You’re both battling for the same goal and that’s to win the championship. I mean yeah, sure we’ll talk off the ice and joke around but on the ice, it’s all business at that point. I’m sure I’ll talk to them but I’m not sure I’ll be going out to dinner or anything with them.”
A prominent former IceCap will be making his way back to Mile One Centre as a member of the opposition as well.
Fans may recall defenceman Derek Meech played a big role in the IceCaps’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the team’s inaugural season and it comes as no surprise that his favourite IceCaps moment stems from that memorable run.
“I think it was maybe Game 4 against Syracuse and a win would give us a chance to go to the semi-final,” Meech recalled.
“I got lucky enough to score the OT winner in that game. The fans were going crazy and that was a great feeling for the team and for myself to be able to chip in like that and help the team move on.”
Both Beskorowany and Meech agree that camaraderie with former teammates comes second when a championship is on the line and it won’t be easy hoisting a trophy when it comes at the expense of beating a friend.
“At the end of the day, whoever wins is going to be excited,” Beskorowany said.
“Whoever loses won’t be happy but this is business. It’s going to be a battle right to the end. I’m sure whoever wins will take the other team out after.”
“I think you have to separate those things when you’re out on the ice,” Meech said.
“This is the finals. We’re playing for the championship. There’s a lot on the line and there’s going to be some good competition. You’re not going to go around cheap-shotting any guys or anything like that but it’s going to be a hard fought battle from both ends.”
Fans in any sport’s championship final play a critical part of a team’s success and both buildings are expected to be booming as the series heats up. A team’s former players often get special attention when they head back, leaving both Beskorowany and Meech curious about the reception they’ll receive.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get heckled or not,” Beskorowany laughed.
“I think I left a good mark there. The fans liked me when I was there. But I saw (another former Stars goaltender) Matt Climie come back and they gave him a hard time. It’ll be interesting to see.”
“I’m just excited to get back there and to feel the playoff atmosphere in that building again,” Meech said.
“It’s not about the response I might get from the fans. Whatever way they may go, it’s understandable. I’m coming in on the opposite side now. I know from playing there that the fans have a lot of respect for hard work on the ice. I remember we lost four straight against Norfolk and I remember with six minutes left in the last game, everybody was on their feet and still cheering. That was a pretty special time. I know they have a lot of character and a lot of respect for the game so I’m not too worried about going there. It’s going to be exciting.”