IceCaps sunk by Admirals in overtime
St. John’s on the brink of elimination after heartbreaking 1-0 loss
By Chris Doyle
Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored on a breakaway just 1:37 into overtime to lift the Norfolk Admirals to a 1-0 victory over the St. John’s IceCaps in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night at Mile One Centre.
The win gives the Admirals a commanding 3-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
The IceCaps skated hard from start to finish and showed an even better effort than in their Game 2 loss but ultimately fell just short to the league’s top-ranked team for the third consecutive game. Eddie Pasquale, the game’s first star, was brilliant for St. John’s in stopping 26-of-27 shots. Dustin Tokarski earned third star honours with a 25-save shutout, his first blanking of the postseason.
The teams played a tight, back-and-forth game the entire night, with both squads looking for that one break to get on the board first. The Admirals got that break early in the extra frame when Arturs Kulda’s attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone was blocked by Labrie. As the puck bounced into the neutral zone, Labrie had a step on his man and was able to skate in untouched, beating Pasquale with a high shot and sending the Admirals over the bench in celebration.
“I thought overall it was the best game we played in the series,” head coach Keith McCambridge. “The guys gave everything they had.”
The IceCaps now find themselves in a deep hole heading into Tuesday’s Game 4, needing to beat Norfolk four straight times. Norfolk has lost just four times in its last 43 games.
“Obviously we’re not in a position we want to be in right now, going into (Tuesday),” Pasquale said following the loss. “We have a lot of fight left. I think we have. We need just to take it game by game. Our back’s against the wall. The last time our back was against the wall was in Game 7 (of the last round) and we came out hard for that. Hopefully, that’s what happens (Wednesday). It’s not over. It’s a best-of-seven and they still have to beat us one more game.”
On the positive side for the IceCaps, two teams in American Hockey League history have rebounded from a 0-3 deficit. In 1960, Rochester defeated Cleveland in the semifinal series, while Adirondack rebounded against Hershey in the 1989 Southern Division final.
“I can tell you one thing about my team,” McCambridge stated. “My team has a lot of character. And I know that team digs in and gives everything they have. If anybody can dig themselves out of this hole, it’s that group in there.”
The first period saw six minor penalties called but neither team could capitalize on the power play. Pasquale made a great save on a deflection after Kulda was sent off for slashing, one of seven saves in the period for the rookie netminder. St. John’s also fired seven shots at Tokarski in the opening frame but the Admirals’ goalie was equal to the task.
The second period was much of the same, with both squads trading some chances but playing a tight-checking game. Just past the midway point of the period, Pasquale got the better of Richard Panik when the Admirals’ forward headed in on a breakaway. Pasquale got his blocker on Panik’s shot and steered the puck away, much to the appreciation of the Mile One faithful.
Minutes later, Pasquale made his most acrobatic stop of the night, robbing Alexandre Picard of a sure goal. Radko Gudas’ shot from the point was kicked out by Pasquale but the rebound found the stick of Picard, who was staring into an open cage. However, the IceCaps’ netminder lunged across the crease and got a piece of the shot with his blocker to keep the game scoreless.
Tokarski responded a few minutes later when he slid cross-crease to stymie Brock Trotter in the crease with his left pad after Trotter received a tape-to-tape pass from the left circle.
The teams battled for position in the third but neither team gave an inch. The IceCaps survived a scare with just 23 seconds left in regulation when Pasquale came up with a clutch save after a bounding puck bounced to a wide-open Trevor Smith in front of the net, preserving the scoreless tie and sending the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, neither club was afforded the luxury of getting settled, as Labrie’s marker came just 1:37 into the period.
St. John’s and Norfolk collide once again Tuesday night at Mile One for Game 4, as the IceCaps look to stave off elimination and force a Game 5, which would also be at Mile One.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Fans can watch the game live on Rogers TV in Newfoundland and streaming online at www.ahllive.com. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with the pregame show getting underway at 7:00 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).
St. John’s falls to 3-2 in overtime games this postseason, while Norfolk improves to 3-1….The IceCaps went 0-for-6 on the power play and are 1-for-18 in the series. The Admirals are just 2-for-17 after going 0-for-7 Tuesday….The scoreless tie in regulation was the first such game for St. John’s in team history. The only other 1-0 game in which the team has played was back on Oct. 8 in Manchester, a win in the team’s second game of the season….Tuesday’s 50/50 draw was $21,852, marking the fourth straight game the winning prize amount has surpassed the $20,000 mark.
Photos (Jeff Parsons)