Weekend Preview: IceCaps play three-in-three to finish season
By Chris Doyle
A remarkable inaugural season comes to a close this weekend as the St. John’s IceCaps end their regular season with stops in Worcester, Springfield and Manchester.
The club is coming off a 2-2 week last week that saw them split a pair of games with both the Portland Pirates and Springfield Falcons. In the home finale on Sunday, Eric O’Dell potted two goals including the game-winner halfway through the third period to give the IceCaps a 4-3 victory. Eddie Pasquale returned to the starting lineup after missing six games with an upper body injury to collect his 22nd win of the season.
With just three games remaining, the Atlantic Division champion IceCaps can secure the number two seed with a single point or a Bridgeport loss this weekend. The club currently sits five points up on Bridgeport for second in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, St. John’s appears to be getting healthy at the right time. Defenceman Paul Postma and forwards Marco Rosa and Ray Sawada are expected to return to the lineup sometime this weekend, while forward Brock Trotter is expected to make his IceCaps debut. Trotter was acquired in a trade with Portland back in early March but has not yet played a game for his new team.
The news is not all good for the IceCaps, however. Team captain Jason Jaffray, who was injured in a game against the Norfolk Admirals on March 29, will miss the rest of the season with a spinal injury. Jaffray was hit by Admirals defenceman Radko Gudas and fell into the boards awkwardly, needing assistance to leave the ice. The Alberta native will undergo surgery and attempt to be ready for training camp next season.
Also bolstering the lineup this weekend will be forwards Spencer Machacek and Patrice Cormier, who were returned from Winnipeg Monday after the Jets finished up their regular season. Machacek, the IceCaps’ leading scorer with 47 points, notched nine points in 11 games since his recall on March 18. Cormier, recalled on April 1, a day after the IceCaps clinched the Atlantic Division title, did not record a point in three games during the promotion but has 17 goals and 31 points in 54 games for St. John’s this season.
Friday’s opponent, the Worcester Sharks, have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The club has gone 2-7-0-1 in its last 10 contests, falling to 13th place in the East with 72 points. The Sharks did receive a solid effort their last time out, defeating Manchester 4-1 on Tuesday. Sena Acolatse scored a pair of power play goals while Harri Sateri stood on his head in goal, stopping an incredible 49 shots in the win.
St. John’s is 4-3-0-0 versus Worcester this season and has won all three games at the DCU Center. The two teams last met in early February at Mile One Centre in a pair of physical and penalty-filled contests, with each team recording a victory.
Saturday, the IceCaps head to Springfield for a rematch with the Falcons, with whom they split a two-game series last weekend at Mile One. The Falcons were also eliminated from playoff contention this week as they sit five points back of eighth with just two games remaining. The IceCaps are 1-1-1-0 in the season series with Springfield.
Finally, the IceCaps wrap up the regular season Sunday afternoon in Manchester. The Monarchs sit two points back of eighth place Portland with one game in hand and three tough games looming this weekend. Prior to hosting St. John’s, the Monarchs visit the sixth place Connecticut Whale Friday night and return home to face the fifth place Hershey Bears Saturday afternoon.
St. John’s is 5-2-0-0 against Manchester this season but has dropped two straight against its division rival, losing 3-0 and 3-1 on March 17 and 18, respectively, at Mile One.
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 30 minutes prior to the drop of the puck.