IceCaps swing into New England for three games
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps embark on a six-game road trip, including three games in less than 48 hours, when they travel to New England this weekend.
The IceCaps enter the weekend sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division despite collecting just three of a possible eight points in four home games last week, having been helped by a Manchester Monarchs squad that has lost six straight and has not won in the New Year.
The last time St. John’s took to the ice, it dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Jan. 15. Down 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, the IceCaps battled back to tie the game on goals by Ben Maxwell and Jason Jaffray to force overtime and earn a single point. However, the Penguins finished things off just 1:30 into the extra frame when Ben Street redirected a shot past Eddie Pasquale to help the visitors escape with two points.
The IceCaps will attempt to bounce back on the road, where they have lost just once in regulation this season, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Marlies Jan. 1. St. John`s has collected 27 of a possible 32 points away from Mile One Centre, and has outscored the opposition 58-36 in those contests.
After a hot December during which he went 6-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average, goaltender David Aebischer has cooled off some since the turn of the calendar. Aebischer has lost two of his last three starts, allowing seven goals in just four periods of play. The Swiss netminder will look to get back on track this weekend, where it is anticipated that he will start two of the IceCaps’ three contests.
On the injury front, forward Riley Holzapfel is expected to make his return to the lineup after missing the last 18 games with a facial injury that will force him to wear a full cage for the immediate future. Before suffering the injury in practice back in late November, Holzapfel had collected seven goals and three assists for 10 points, including a team-leading three game-winning goals. Marco Rosa, out since before the Christmas break, remains sidelined with a head injury and did not make the trip with the team.
Friday’s opponent, the Connecticut Whale, has lost seven in a row, with its last victory coming on Dec. 27 versus Albany. The Whale still maintains a two-point lead over the Adirondack Phantoms for first in the Northeast Division despite its recent struggles. Veteran Kris Newbury leads the team with 38 points (15g, 23a) and sits ninth in league scoring. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault is second in rookie scoring with 36 points (14g, 22a) behind only Norfolk’s Cory Conacher. St. John’s is a perfect 3-0 versus the Whale this season, including a 6-3 win in Connecticut back on Nov. 4.
Saturday, the IceCaps invade the Cumberland County Civic Center to face an Atlantic Division rival, the Portland Pirates. Portland has won three-of-four overall, including a 4-2 win over the aforementioned Whale Wednesday night. Leading-scorer Brock Trotter has been on fire since the beginning of December with 22 points (9g, 13a) in his last 20 games. The IceCaps lead the season series 2-1-0-1 and recorded a 5-2 win the last time the two teams met, on Dec. 18. The Pirates host the Springfield Falcons Friday night before welcoming the IceCaps Saturday.
Wrapping up the weekend road swing on Sunday afternoon, the IceCaps face yet another divisional foe in the Worcester Sharks. The Sharks have climbed into second place in the Atlantic Division ahead of the Monarchs as a result of their three-game win streak, which included a pair of shutouts by goaltender Harri Sateri. The season series between the IceCaps and Sharks is tied 2-2, with the visiting team coming away victorious in each contest.
Catch all the action with Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Friday’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m., with the pregame show set for 8:00 (all times Newfoundland).