No thinking IceCaps
Defensive lapses force end of six-game win streak
IceCaps fall to Admirals 6-2
By Chris Doyle
It was a rough night for the St. John’s IceCaps.
St. John’s allowed a season-high six goals in a lopsided and physical 6-2 loss to the Norfolk Admirals Friday night at Mile One Centre.
Edward Pasquale, a perfect 6-0-0 coming into Friday’s game, stopped 25-of-31 shots in suffering his first loss of the season. Meanwhile, his counterpart Jaroslav Janus made 26 saves on 28 shots for the Admirals in the victory.
“I wasn’t focused on the physicality,” said head coach Keith McCambridge, “I was more focused on our team not coming out at the level we needed to come out at. For the first period and the majority of the second, I don’t think we won any loose puck battles, we weren’t moving our feet.”
The game got off to a quick start when the IceCaps’ Garth Murray and Admirals captain Mike Angelidis squared off and traded blows. At 5:27 of the first period, rookie Carter Ashton potted his team-leading 12th goal of the season to give the Admirals a 1-0 lead. St. John’s tied it at 16:44 on a blast from the point by Paul Postma for his third goal of the season. Postma, playing in his first game since being reassigned to St. John’s by the Winnipeg Jets last Sunday, rifled a shot over the shoulder of Janus on the power play. The teams entered the dressing room knotted at one.
Murray, who had two fights on the night, said he was just standing up for his teammates in the second bout.
“It was a 2-1 game at the time,” Murray said following the game. “The guy (Radko Gudas) hit (Aaron Gagnon) pretty good at centre. It was a solid smack. When that happens to guys like Gags, you gotta step up for them. It didn’t exactly work out as it should have.”
The second period was all Admirals, as they put up three goals to take a 4-1 lead going into the second intermission. Trevor Smith converted on a feed from Cory Conacher from behind the net to make it 2-1 just 1:22 into the period, and Smith got credit for his second of the night minutes later after his shot redirected off an IceCaps defender and past Pasquale. Angelidis picked up his third of the season at 11:11 to extend the lead to 4-1 heading into the third.
Carl Klingberg’s beautiful goal, a shorthanded tally at 2:58 of the third that cut the lead in half, provided fans with a glimmer of hope. Klingberg took a feed from Jason DeSantis and danced in on a breakaway, deking Janus to the glove side and sliding it underneath his outstretched pad. Klingberg, the IceCaps’ top scorer this season with nine goals, trails only Ashton (12) for the most goals among rookie skaters.
The dagger came at the 8:14 mark of the third period when Tyler Johnson made no mistake on a beautiful no-look pass from Ashton to make the score 5-2. Johnson would later add his second of the game, on the power play, to seal the victory for Norfolk.
“That’s a really good hockey team over there,” Murray stated. “We let up a bit in our defensive zone and with our defensive play, and they capitalized. It’s something we talked about. We didn’t support each other, and they have a lot of skilled players. They know where to put the puck when they get it, especially if you give them time. We’ve got to be ready play at the level we have all year. But it’s a fact that you’re going to get no easy points.
“There are ups and downs with a team all year, and in different periods. We want to be a three-period team. For us we have to be better defensively and play better in front of our own net.”
There were few positives on this night for the IceCaps. Forward John Albert, tied for second on the team with a +8 rating going into the contest, was -4 on the night. Shawn Weller, Patrice Cormier and Zach Redmond, the team leader at +11, all were -3.
“We need to know that when other teams come in to play us, they’re going to bring their top game,” McCambridge said. “You look at the standings and see where we’re situated, they’re coming with their best effort. You can’t take any periods off and tonight I thought we weren’t bringing our best game.
“For whatever reason tonight, we weren’t thinking. We weren’t taking care of our own end. The message is disappointment. A team that has fought back and won games from behind, that has made sure they’re getting two points out of games that they needed to, and to look at tonight as two points wasted.
“It’s not a matter of looking at the standings to say we’ve only lost three in regulation. It’s a matter that we come ready at the start of every game. We’re going to see other teams best effort every night.”
McCambridge said outside of a 12-minute span in the third period, there were no positives to take from the contest.
Despite the loss, the IceCaps maintain an eight-point lead over the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division and will finish Friday night still on top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The IceCaps continued their streak of home sellouts, now nine and counting after Friday night’s announced crowd of 6,287. St. John’s is averaging 6,312 fans per game at Mile One Centre this season, fourth in the AHL behind Hershey, San Antonio and Providence.
The IceCaps will look to rebound from Friday’s loss when they host Norfolk for a second straight game on Saturday night. St. John’s has a 3-0-2-0 record in games after a loss this season.
Saturday’s game, and all 76 games this season, can be heard on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador with play-by-play man Brian Rogers. Pregame show begins at 7:00 p.m. with the drop of the puck set for 7:30.