Pasquale perfect as IceCaps snap losing skid
By Chris Doyle
Eddie Pasquale stopped all 27 shots he faced as the banged-up St. John’s IceCaps gritted out a huge victory and blanked the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-0 Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
After coming on in relief of David Aebischer Friday night, Pasquale was given the start Saturday and rewarded coach Keith McCambridge by notching his fourth shutout of the season and second this month. Aaron Gagnon and Jason Gregoire scored for St. John’s (39-19-5-3), which snapped its season-high four game losing streak and moved a step closer to clinching its first-ever playoff berth.
“A real character win; a good road win,” McCambridge said following the contest. “We played well enough and played hard enough to scrape points out. We got the one (Friday) night. Tonight, you need your whole team going, our leaders to lead and your whole team to dig down.
“We’ve talked all season long about the character and how hard this team works, and works for each other. I thought was evident tonight.”
Disappointed with just one point after Friday night’s shootout loss in Syracuse, the club played a solid game on Saturday in a high-tempo affair and received a tremendous effort from the entire cast, especially gritty forward Ray Sawada and depth defenceman John Negrin.
“It takes everybody to get yourselves back in the win column,” McCambridge said. “We’ve seen some really good things from Ray. When you have four lines, he’s not out there that much. But he’s very good on the walls. He’s getting pucks out. He’s hard to contain down low.
“Johnny Negrin was real strong from start to finish. He defended well. He moved pucks up the ice quickly. Johnny was on at the end of the game when they pulled their goalie, he’s on the ice. You recognize the guys who are playing well and you give them the extra ice.
The IceCaps got on the board late in the first period when Gagnon was sent in alone after a great pass from Sawada. At the 19:39 mark, Gagnon went backhand-forehand to beat Penguins goalie Scott Munroe for his 12th of the season and second in the last three games.
In the second, the IceCaps converted on yet another breakaway when John Albert sent Gregoire in untouched on the left side. Gregoire snapped a wrister that beat Munroe high on the glove side just underneath the crossbar to give St. John’s a 2-0 lead.
Pasquale shut the door the rest of the way and received help from an IceCaps squad that worked tirelessly for the entire 60 minutes despite playing 65-plus minutes of hockey the night before.
The IceCaps magic number to clinch a playoff spot now sits at four points and could shrink even further depending on Saturday night’s results around the league. St. John’s is 15 points up on second place Manchester in the Atlantic Division and is comfortably in second place in the Eastern Conference, nine points back of the Norfolk Admirals and 10 points up on third place Connecticut.
While the win was good news for the club, coach McCambridge recognized the efforts of his veterans like Jason Jaffray, Jason King and second star Aaron Gagnon. With 10 regulars missing from the lineup, McCambridge relied on his core group when it came time to send players on the ice.
“They’re tired, and you’re judging when to change them by how much their shoulders are moving, how hard they’re breathing to catch their breath. They are guys who have been around the game a long time, know how to win games and they know how to get two points out of a building like this.”
The IceCaps will get set to take on the red-hot Admirals for two games next week in Norfolk and attempt to snap the club’s league-record 20 game winning streak.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Tune in to the pregame show starting 30 minutes before puck drop.
The IceCaps picked up their 21st road victory of the season….St. John’s finished up their season series with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a 2-2-0-0 record. The road team was victorious in each of the four matchups….Pasquale lowered his goals-against average to a sparkling 1.58 in the month of March….Defenceman Arturs Kulda was a plus-2 and is a team-best +21 for the season….Carl Klingberg missed the game after suffering what was believed to be a lower body injury in Wednesday’s loss against the Hershey Bears….The IceCaps dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen for Saturday’s game….St. John’s was 0-for-2 on the power play and a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.