O’Dell swell for IceCaps
Pots winner late in third to give St. John’s sixth straight win
Rookie Eric O’Dell may have only two goals this season, but both have been monumental.
With just 3:01 to play in regulation, O’Dell scored the eventual game-winner to lift the St. John’s IceCaps to a 4-3 victory over the Connecticut Whale at Mile One Centre Sunday afternoon.
Peter Mannino, the game’s first star, turned aside 35-of-38 shots in his return to the IceCaps since being reassigned to St. John’s by the Winnipeg Jets. Mannino allowed all three goals in the opening period but was rock solid the rest of the way in picking up his third win of the season.
”I thought Peter battled hard,” said head coach Keith McCambridge. “As the game wore on he got better and better. He found a way to stop pucks. He made big saves when we needed it.”
Connecticut opened the scoring at 7:14 of the first period when John Mitchell scored on the power play – his third goal in two games this weekend – to give the Whale a 1-0 lead. Mitchell took a feed from Tim Erixon and made no mistake in beating Mannino. Tommy Grant later made it 2-0 on a wrist shot off the wing that beat Mannino low on the blocker-side.
St. John’s pulled within one on defenceman Kyle Bushee’s first AHL goal at the 14:40 mark of the first. Bushee, who pinched down low on the power play, banged home a rebound past Whale netminder Chad Johnson, who stopped 23 shots on the day.
Whale forward Carl Hagelin restored the two-goal lead just minutes later when a shot redirected off his face and past Mannino. However, Corner Brook native Jason King scored the first of his two goals on the night in the last minute of the first, beating Johnson cleanly off the wing after a brilliant feed from Marco Rosa.
King beat Johnson again just 3:19 into the second frame to tie the game at three on a beautifully placed shot high to the glove side. The score would stay that way until Ottawa native O’Dell’s marker at 16:59 of the third, which proved to be the winner.
O’Dell’s other goal was also of the game-winning variety, coming a little more than a week ago on the road in Hartford against the very same Whale team.
“I like O’Dell,” McCambridge said. “He’s another one of those depth guys. When he’s in the lineup, he creates chances, he’s good in his own zone and he plays with some sandpaper. I like his game a lot. He’s one of those guys you can insert on the first, second, third or fourth line and he’ll help you.”
Both teams looked a bit sluggish in the early-going but picked up the pace in the third period. St. John’s was outshot for just the second time this season but managed to find the back of the net on four occasions. It was the third straight game – and fifth in the last six – that the IceCaps have scored four goals or more. The IceCaps are a perfect 8-0-0-0 when scoring at least four times.
The win was the sixth in a row for St. John’s, which has distanced itself from the second place Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division. The IceCaps are 10 points up on the Bruins and have lost just twice in regulation all season, collecting points in 14 of 16 games overall.
“There’s a lot of character in the make-up of that team,” McCambridge stated, pointing towards his club’s dressing room. “We saw that on the road and we see that quite a few times in the third period. They find ways to get goals, to come back and to scrape two points out of it.
“It’s a real testament to the guys in that room and the character in that room.”
The IceCaps continue to improve on special teams as well. St. John’s has climbed to 19th overall on the power play after a 1-for-32 start to the season. Bushee’s first period power play marker marked the seventh straight game in which the IceCaps have scored with the man advantage. Similarly, the penalty killers have been getting the job done as of late. Despite Mitchell’s goal in the first, the St. John’s penalty kill has risen to 16th overall (80.3%) in the AHL after some early-season troubles.
St. John’s was able to come away with two points despite losing two key players prior to the start of Sunday afternoon’s game. Captain Jason Jaffray, who recorded a hat trick in Saturday night’s 8-4 win over Connecticut, was recalled by the Jets along with steady defenceman Arturs Kulda. Jaffray was tied for second in team scoring with seven goals and 12 points in 15 games, while Kulda was a plus-nine with six points in 13 contests.
“Some teams have a built in excuse with that (call-ups), when you don’t have your lineup that you had two-and-a-half weeks ago,” McCambridge said. “We’ve lost four of our upper end defencemen and our captain but the guys didn’t miss a beat. It’s a chance for the guys to earn more minutes.”
Once again, the IceCaps played in front of a sold out crowd, the eighth consecutive sellout to begin their inaugural season. Sunday’s game drew 6,287 fans, bringing the total attendance on the season to more than 50,000. On Saturday night the IceCaps set a Mile One Centre record for hockey with 6,503 fans in attendance. The IceCaps per-game average of 6,315 is fourth best in the AHL.
The next action for St. John’s comes next weekend, November 18th and 19th, when the Norfolk Admirals come to Mile One for a two-game set. All games can be heard with play-by-play man Brian Rogers on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador and online at www.stjohnsicecaps.com. The pregame show begins 30 minutes prior to puck drop.