IceCaps stage huge comeback win
Photo: Scott Thomas
Team overcomes four-goal deficit to beat Syracuse 5-4 in OT
Ben Chiarot scored his first goal of the season as the St. John’s IceCaps rebounded from a four-goal deficit to edge the Syracuse Crunch 5-4 in overtime Saturday night in New York.
Chiarot swatted home a loose puck after a scramble with just 20 seconds remaining in the extra frame for the IceCaps fifth straight goal to seal the comeback, emptying the St. John’s bench. The win could provide the boost the team has been looking for after a season-long struggle scoring goals. It’s just the third time this season St. John’s has scored five or more goals in a game.
Eddie Pasquale kept the IceCaps in the game with several big saves with the team trailing 4-2 in the second period, and stopped 29 shots. St. John’s fired 33 shots at Riku Helenius in the Syracuse net. It was the most shots given up by the Crunch at home this season.
Few people would have expected a win with the IceCaps trailing 4-0 halfway through the game against a team that sits first in the Eastern Conference with 19 victories already this season. St. John’s got two back before the second period ended, but Syracuse was 16-0-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes heading into Saturday’s game. (St. John’s, meanwhile, was just 2-12-0-0 when trailing after two periods.)
The IceCaps started strong against the Crunch, with two great early scoring opportunities. First, Jason Gregoire got stopped by Helenius and then Ben Maxwell’s chance ended up on top of the net, keeping the game scoreless, following a trend of tough scoring luck that has dogged the IceCaps all season.
Then, at 18:25, Syracuse made it 2-0 on the power play. With Chiarot in the box for elbowing, Patrick Killorn, alone in the slot, converted a feed from Evan Oberg to put the home team up a pair heading to intermission.
Ray Sawada had the IceCaps best scoring chance in the early part of the second, when he took a drop pass from Zach Redmond at the blueline and walked into the slot, before firing a shot off the back of a Syracuse defender.
Then, shortly after that, it was Syracuse extending their lead to 3-0. Big defenceman Keith Aulie jumped in from the point and took a nice feed from Conacher in the slot and wristed a high shot past Pasquale.
Vlad Namestnikov put the Crunch up 4-0 on a pretty three-way passing play. Ondrej Palat carried the puck into the IceCaps zone on a power play before centring it to Brett Connolly. Connolly made a deft backhand pass across the crease to Namestnikov who buried the puck into an open net.
Eric O’Dell got the IceCaps on the board shortly after. Kael Mouillierat took a shot that Helenius stopped but O’Dell swooped in on the rebound to make it 4-1 at 8:31.
Syracuse could have extended their lead with about four minutes remaining in the frame if not for Pasquale. The Toronto native made a huge glove save off Conacher on the doorstep to keep the score 4-2 after 40 minutes, setting the stage for the comeback.
Just 1:53 into the third period, Jason Gregoire picked up a puck off the back boards and fired a shot that Helenius stopped. However, the Winnipeg native pounced on a rebound and scored on the backhand to make it a one-goal deficit.
Will O’Neill’s first goal of the season, on a slapshot from the point, tied the score 4-4. The goal came with 12:28 remaining, and about two minutes after the IceCaps were buzzing all around the Syracuse goal. The line of Kevin Clark-Aaron Gagnon-Ryan Schnell kept the puck deep and had several opportunities to score.
That would do it for scoring until the extra frame. Syracuse dominated the early part of overtime, hemming St. John’s into its zone for long stretches. However, Chiarot’s heroics sent the club to Binghamton with a win under its belt.
The club plays again Monday against the Senators in Binghamton, a 7:35 New Year’s Eve start (NL time). Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at stjohnsicecaps.com and 930 AM, or watch online at ahllive.com. The pre-game show starts 30 minutes prior to puck drop.