IceCaps triumphant in return home
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps returned home in style with a 5-2 victory over the Portland Pirates Tuesday night at Mile One Centre.
Using a patchwork lineup, and in the club’s first game since clinching the Atlantic Division title Saturday night in Hershey, the IceCaps expected more of a push from the Pirates, who are battling for a playoff position. Coach Keith McCambridge liked the way his club started the contest – with two quick goals – and dictated the play. He was also impressed with the play of the newcomers, thrust into the lineup because the IceCaps are missing nine regulars.
New college signees Will O’Neill and Danny Dries both recorded their first professional goals and Eric O’Dell notched three assists in the win, the second straight for St. John’s (41-21-5-3). Dries, O’Neill, John Albert and Zach Redmond all had a goal and an assist, and David Aebischer made 31 saves for his 15th victory of the season.
“I like the effort overall and I like the energy of the young guys,” McCambridge said. “I really like the added injection of youth, energy and new faces into the lineup right now, giving us a bit of an extra boost. So credit to them for what they’re giving our lineup.”
The IceCaps dominated the opening frame, outshooting the Pirates 19-9 and opening up a 2-0 lead just 4:41 into the game. Aaron Gagnon potted his 14th of the season at 2:15, converting a rebound from a Kevin Clark shot off the right wing. Clark busted down the right side and fired a wrister on net, and Gagnon slid the rebound underneath former IceCap goaltender Peter Mannino, who was making his first start against his old squad.
Just 2:26 later, Albert made it 2-0 on yet another rebound. O’Dell barged in front of the net from the corner, and after Mannino made the initial save Albert backhanded home the rebound for a 2-0 IceCaps advantage.
Portland drew within one late in the period when Marc-Antoine Pouliot was served the puck on the platter after it ricocheted off multiple legs in front of the St. John’s net. Pouliot knocked in the loose puck to make it 2-1 IceCaps after 20 minutes.
In the second, the IceCaps once again jumped all over the Pirates in the early-going. At the 1:45 mark, Redmond found a pinching O’Neill on the left side, and the rookie defenceman potted his first career goal with a beautiful shot just underneath the crossbar for a 3-1 St. John’s lead.
Dries then made it 4-1 just 15 seconds later with an unassisted goal, also the first of his pro career. The Ohio State alum picked up the puck off a Pirates turnover behind the net and barged out front, shoveling in a backhand. Mannino’s night came to an end after the goal, and he was replaced by Justin Pogge between the pipes.
Redmond capped off the scoring for the IceCaps at 6:51 of the middle frame after a goalmouth scramble, with O’Dell drawing his third assist of the night.
O’Dell was denied a goal – and his fourth point of the night – a few minutes later when the officiating crew determined that he intentionally kicked the puck across the goal line after a centering pass.
“I did kick it,” O’Dell answered when asked about the goal called back. “I tried to stop it actually, but it did go off my foot. They made the right call.”
Portland’s Brett Sterling made it 5-2 early in the third with a power play marker but that was as close as the visitors got.
The IceCaps have now won two straight contests and hold a seven point lead over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Pirates, meanwhile, failed to make up ground on the idle Manchester Monarchs and Syracuse Crunch for the final two playoff spots in the East. Portland sits three points back of both teams with just five games left in the schedule.
Wednesday, the two teams clash for the eighth and final time this season with Portland needing a win to breathe life into their playoff hopes. The IceCaps hold a 4-2-0-1 advantage in the season series and have won the last two meetings. McCambridge wants his charges to come out hard Wednesday and play the same way and sweep a home series.
“Not letting our foot off the gas was something we talked about,” he said. We have to make sure the work ethic was there. This isn’t a team that ever sits back, rests and hopes for things to happen on the ice. This team always comes to compete, the majority of the time. They don’t have the makeup to sit back and coast into the playoffs. They’re gonna come out and compete.”
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 at 7:00 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 7:30 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).
St. John’s had 10 scratches on the night, including Paul Postma, Derek Meech, Jason Jaffray, Ben Chiarot, Marco Rosa, Max Macenauer, Ray Sawada, Brock Trotter, John Negrin and Eddie Pasquale….The recent power play struggles continued for St. John’s, which is now one for its last 20 with the man advantage. The penalty killing unit went 1-for-6….Former IceCaps Kenndal McArdle and Peter Mannino made their return to St. John’s for the first time since being traded to Portland for Brock Trotter back in early March….The goals by Danny Dries and Will O’Neill came in their first game on home ice. The pair joined the club on its most recent road trip and had yet to appear in a game at Mile One….Had Eric O’Dell’s second period goal not been disallowed, he would have tied a team record with his fourth point of the game, a mark set by Patrice Cormier (3g, 1a) on Mar. 9 vs. Hershey….The IceCaps reached 35 consecutive sellouts at Mile One, and have three home games remaining on the schedule.
Game photos (Jeff Parsons)