Preview: IceCaps vs. Pirates
By Chris Doyle
The Atlantic Division champion St. John’s IceCaps return home to host the Portland Pirates Tuesday and Wednesday at Mile One Centre.
Three days removed from winning the first division title in team history, the IceCaps begin a four-game home stand to close out the home portion of the schedule. Saturday in Hershey, St. John’s fell behind 1-0 in the first but controlled the play the rest of the game, clinching the division with a 3-2 win. Patrice Cormier had two goals and Chris Carrozzi stopped 24 shots for his first win as an IceCap in just his second career AHL start.
Cormier’s strong performance has earned him another shot with the Winnipeg Jets as they close out their season. Having been eliminated from playoff contention, Cormier will get a chance to potentially earn a spot with the Jets for next season, before being reassigned to St. John’s in time for the playoffs.
With Eddie Pasquale still nursing an upper-body injury, Carrozzi should get a chance to build upon what was a solid debut Saturday night. The Nepean, Ontario native did not see any action in his first go-around with the club but proved he could handle pressure situations by winning in front of a raucous Hershey crowd of more than 10,000 people.
With a guaranteed top-three seed locked up, the IceCaps can now afford to ease back their contingent of injured bodies. Paul Postma, Jason Jaffray and Max Macenauer likely won’t draw into the lineup on the home stand, but Derek Meech and Marco Rosa – who have been out for extended periods of time – have been practising with the team and look to return soon.
The Pirates enter the two-game series fighting for their playoff lives. The Atlantic Division rivals currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, three points back of both Syracuse and Manchester for the final two playoff spots, despite a conference-worst minus-35 goal differential.
Portland has recorded at least a point in four straight games and seven of its last eight overall to keep pace in the race. Saturday, the Pirates dropped a 4-3 decision to Bridgeport in overtime on a last-second goal by Trevor Frischmon.
The series also marks the return of two former IceCaps, forward Kenndal McArdle and goaltender Peter Mannino. The pair was loaned to Portland for forward Brock Trotter back on March 3. Since the trade, McArdle has notched five points (2g, 3a) and 29 penalty minutes with a plus-1 rating in 13 games, while Mannino has gone 5-4-1 with a 3.37 goals-against average and a 0.901 save percentage in 10 games. Trotter, who is still recovering from an injury, has yet to play a game with St. John’s.
The IceCaps hold a 3-2-0-1 edge in the season series, having won the most recent meeting 3-0 on Jan. 28 at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Jason King has been a thorn in the side of the Pirates: the winger has scored four goals and added two assists for six points in five games played. Brett MacLean leads all Pirates in scoring versus St. John’s with five points (1g, 4a) in just three games.
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).