Shorthanded IceCaps fall to Monarchs
Club shut out 3-0, drops second straight to division rival
By Chris Doyle
A severely depleted St. John’s IceCaps squad fell for the second straight day against the Manchester Monarchs, dropping a 3-0 decision Sunday at Mile One Centre.
Playing with just 17 skaters, one fewer than the maximum, the IceCaps couldn’t muster any offence yet again. After scoring just once in Saturday night’s loss, the IceCaps were blanked by the Monarchs and goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who stopped 27 shots, including 13 in the final frame, to record his second shutout of the season.
St. John’s fell behind just 20 seconds into the game when Ray Kaunisto came in off the left wing and wristed a shot that beat Eddie Pasquale high on the glove side. The winger used defenceman Jason DeSantis as a screen on the play, giving the IceCaps’ netminder virtually no chance to see the puck.
Things got even worse for St. John’s a few minutes later. Paul Postma was carrying the puck out of the defensive zone when he stumbled and fell, colliding with a Monarchs’ forward in the process. Postma stayed down on the ice for several minutes after the collision and was helped to the dressing room, ending his day and leaving the team with just 16 skaters for the rest of the game.
“Twenty seconds in it was tough to dig out of that hole,” head coach Keith McCambridge said to the media, preferring to not wait for any questions. “They get a really good shot through a screen. Tough one for Pasquale to save that one, and we’re playing catch-up from there. Next shift Postma goes out and we lose one of our, our best defenceman, our top point-getter and the key point of our power play. Sitting on the bench, you’re wondering is this going to be one of those nights.”
Manchester carried the 1-0 advantage into the third period and picked up an insurance marker 5:06 into the frame. Justin Azevedo took a drop pass from Brandon Kozun and wired a shot past Pasquale to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
St. John’s pressed hard to get on the board in the late stages of the third but was unable to get much traffic in front of Zatkoff. The Monarchs were able to keep the play to the outside, forcing the IceCaps to settle for low-percentage shots for much of the game.
Andrei Loktionov cashed in on the empty net with 18 seconds remaining to seal the win for Manchester.
Captain Jason Jaffray faced the media following the game, and said falling behind early hurts the club (6-9-2 when trailing after one period, and just .500 when allowing the game’s first goal).
“I thought the effort was there tonight. I thought the guys played hard,” Jaffray said. “Myself, I thought I could have had two or three out there tonight. The effort was there. I don’t think you can say that for the first period (Saturday) night. The five periods we played (against Manchester) after the first weren’t bad periods. We just didn’t capitalize on our chances.
“We dug ourselves a hole both games and our record shows we don’t play well from behind. It’s something we need to fix.”
The IceCaps finish their home stand with a disappointing 3-3 record but still maintain a 14-point lead over the Monarchs atop the Atlantic Division. Their magic number to clinch a playoff berth remains at nine points.
Despite the loss, McCambridge said he was “proud of the guys, for the fact they dug down.” The club played with 11 forwards and five defencemen to start, and were down to four when Postma left the game.
“I’m never one to use excuses, but when I look around that room and I see the guys between periods and on the bench, fatigue is a factor,” McCambridge noted. “Is it a reason why we lost the game? I can’t answer that. But I know that group of guys are pretty tired. That group of guys gave it everything they had tonight.”
The club now heads out on the road for six games beginning Wednesday night at the Giant Center in Hershey to take on the Bears. From there, the team visits Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next Friday and Saturday, respectively, before travelling to Norfolk to take on the AHL-leading Admirals for two games next week, before wrapping things up back in Hershey on Mar. 31.
“This team has played very well on the road this year,” Jaffray said. “It’s a huge road trip. It’s gonna point us to where we are in the league. We’ve got some huge games on this road trip.”
Catch all the action with Brian Rogers, the voice of the St. John’s IceCaps, at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Pregame show begins 30 minutes before puck drop.
St. John’s fell to 18-13-3-0 at Mile One Centre this season with the loss….The IceCaps went a combined 0-for-5 on the power play in the series but went a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill….Eddie Pasquale started his eighth straight game between the pipes….The IceCaps were shut out for just the second time this season. The Hamilton Bulldogs blanked the IceCaps 4-0 back on Oct. 14 at Mile One in the club’s home opener….St. John’s leads 5-2 in the season series with the Monarchs, with the final matchup taking place on the last day of the season, April 15, in Manchester….The IceCaps sold out their 34th consecutive home game and have four games remaining at Mile One this season
Game Photos (Jeff Parsons)