IceCaps trounce Bears
Photo by Jeff Parsons
Cormier nets hat trick in 6-1 thumping of Hershey
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps easily defeated the Hershey Bears 6-1 Friday night in the first of a two-game series at Mile One Centre this weekend.
Patrice Cormier notched a hat-trick and added an assist to lead St. John’s (36-15-5-2) to its third straight victory overall. Kevin Clark, Spencer Machacek, John Albert and Arturs Kulda all had two-point nights for the home side, while Eddie Pasquale won for the 18th time this season, stopping 19 shots.
St. John’s outskated and outworked a seemingly-lethargic Bears club, who were without their top two scorers Keith Aucoin (on recall to Washington) and Chris Bourque (out with an injury). Despite those absences, IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge considered the win a great one for his club against one of the top teams in the league.
“We were looking at this game – as we will for (Saturday) night – as a measuring stick for us,” he said. “That’s an elite organization in this league. It’s an elite team. I thought our guys performed really well.
“It was a real strong game. We had a lot of guys going tonight and got a lot of positive things out of it. We’ll enjoy it for five minutes and know that’s a real good team that’s gonna come out with a strong push (Saturday) night.”
Cormier got things started at 7:53 of the first period when Kulda delivered a tape-to-tape pass to send the Moncton native on a clear-cut breakaway. His shot was initially stopped by Braden Holtby, but the puck squeaked through the pads of the Hershey netminder, giving the IceCaps a 1-0 lead.
“There are nights when everything you touch goes in,” Cormier said following the game. “And there are nights when everything you touch you look like the worst player out there. We’re just happy to get a win. That’s a solid team. If you look at their lineup, it’s really good. We’re happy with the way we played, but the main focus is to come back and win another one.”
“When you put Patrice out there, he’s a prototypical third or fourth line centre in the National Hockey League,” McCambridge noted. “He’s a big strong guy down low. He’s good in front and he’s hard to play against. But he also has a nice set of hands. He has that good skill set.
“He’s kind of a reflection of what our team is. It’s guys who come to compete every night; who can take care of their own zone, who can play on the offensive side of the puck also. It was nice to see him get rewarded for a really strong game.”
The Bears tied it on a power play at 10:34 of the first on some nice work by Ryan Potulny. The Hershey forward eluded a defender just inside the blueline and fed a perfect pass to Kyle Greentree in front of the net, who tied the game at one.
The second period was all IceCaps. Jason Jaffray gave the home team a 2-1 lead just 5:10 into the frame with a highlight-reel effort. The St. John’s captain picked up the puck and barreled down the right side, cutting to the net and going to the forehand to tuck the puck past Holtby, putting the IceCaps back on top 2-1.
Then, just 1:33 later, Cormier added his second of the night after a flurry of activity in front of the Bears’ net that saw the IceCaps take five swats at the puck. Cormier whacked it in from the side of the net and banked it off Holtby’s back, putting the IceCaps up 3-1.
Kevin Clark finished an impressive period for the IceCaps at the 12:53 mark. Albert outworked a Hershey defender in the corner and chipped the puck behind the net to Ben Maxwell, who came around and fed a perfect backhand pass to Clark in front for his 10th.
With the IceCaps up 4-1 in the third, Cormier completed the hat-trick on yet another breakaway. Postma sprung Cormier, who made a wonderful move going backhand-forehand to beat Holtby for his 14th of the season.
Machacek capped off the scoring for St. John’s at 15:22, converting a Cormier pass off the rush for his 14th goal of the season, giving Cormier his fourth point of the night.
The win keeps the IceCaps with a 16-point advantage atop the Atlantic Division over the Worcester Sharks and Manchester Monarchs, which both won on Friday night. The Monarchs blanked Springfield 3-0 while the Sharks downed Portland 6-4.
The IceCaps and Bears hook up again Saturday night for the second of two games in St. John’s.
“They want to win (Saturday). You can’t expect anything less,” Cormier said of the visitors. “Everybody who comes here, Saturday night in Newfoundland, they don’t want to lose two.”
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 (all times Newfoundland).
St. John’s improved its home record to 16-10-3-0 and has won five straight at Mile One Centre….The IceCaps outshot the Bears 33-20 overall, including 15-4 in a dominant second period….Cormier’s four point game was the first in team history….Prior to the game, Pasquale was presented with his award for winning Reebok/AHL Player of the Week honours for the week of Feb. 6th. President and CEO Danny Williams was on hand to make the presentation, which included a special framed portrait done by local artist Ray Abbott….Newly-acquired forwards Ray Sawada and Max Macenauer made their home debuts for the IceCaps. Sawada threw several big hits and had a fight in the second period….The five-goal win represents the largest margin of victory for the IceCaps this season….St. John’s improved its record to 14-6-3-0 in the first of back-to-back games this season….The IceCaps sellout streak now sits at 29 games.
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)