Weekend Preview: IceCaps vs. Falcons
By Chris Doyle
The St. John’s IceCaps host the Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets) for their final home series of the 2011-12 regular season Saturday and Sunday at Mile One Centre.
The Atlantic Division champion IceCaps returned home this week with a split of their two-game series with the Portland Pirates. Tuesday, St. John’s received contributions from newly-signed rookies Will O’Neill and Danny Dries in a 5-2 victory. Both O’Neill and Dries scored their first professional goals within a 15 second span in the middle frame, and David Aebischer stopped 31 shots for his 15th win of the season.
Wednesday, a desperate Portland team rebounded for a 5-1 win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The line of Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Brett Sterling and Brett MacLean combined for seven points, while goaltender Justin Pogge made 26 saves.
St. John’s will welcome back goaltender Eddie Pasquale, who has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury. The 21-year-old was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team earlier this week and will be a welcome addition to the IceCaps as they head into the playoffs.
The club still remains without a plethora of regulars including First Team AHL All-Star Paul Postma and captain Jason Jaffray, who remain out indefinitely. Forwards Max Macenauer, Ray Sawada, and Brock Trotter are also still unavailable. Defenceman Jason DeSantis, who left Wednesday’s game after slamming his face against the ice on a missed body check, is questionable to suit up Saturday night.
Many supporters will undoubtedly be clamouring to see St. John’s native Zach O’Brien make his professional debut. The local boy was signed to an amateur tryout contract Thursday after completing his age-19 season with the QMJHL’s Acadie- Bathurst Titan. O’Brien led his club with 101 points in 63 games and also led the entire league with 50 goals. With the IceCaps’ infirmary still full, O’Brien could get his shot this weekend in front of family and friends.
The Falcons enter the weekend series in a fight for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots. The club lost a 3-2 decision to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday and could be mathematically eliminated from the race with two losses to the IceCaps. Springfield sits 11th in the East with 72 points, four back of the eighth place Manchester Monarchs.
Fans examining the Falcons roster will surely recognize centre Adam Mair. The Hamilton native played parts of three seasons with the St. John’s Maple Leafs from 1998 to 2001, recording 94 points (40g, 54a) and 193 penalty minutes in 113 regular season games. However, the veteran forward did not make the trip and will therefore not appear in either game.
Springfield also boasts the AHL’s seventh-leading goal scorer of all time in Alexandre Giroux. The Quebec City native has scored 366 career goals, just 10 behind Harry Pidhirny for sixth place. Giroux is also 23rd all-time in points and third on the active list behind Keith Aucoin and Darren Haydar.
Springfield holds the edge in the season series, having defeated the IceCaps 4-3 in overtime back on October 29. After the weekend series, the two teams meet again next weekend in Springfield for their fourth and final matchup.
Saturday and Sunday also mark the conclusion of Fan Appreciation Week for the IceCaps, who have already given away a number of prizes to fans who attended games earlier this week.
On Saturday night one lucky fan will leave with a new car for a year compliments of Capital Auto Group. On Sunday, the Grand Prize will be two (2) confirmed round trip tickets in economy class for travel in North America (excluding Hawaii, Caribbean and Mexico), courtesy of Air Canada during a Last Fan Standing contest. Three lucky fans will also walk away with an Apple IPAD 3 courtesy of The Telegram during the second intermission Tely Toss. The club will give away 2,000 inaugural season commemorative posters as well.
Other prizes to be given away on Saturday and Sunday include a Goodlife three-month membership valued at $350, a $100 Home Depot Gift Card and a Globo Cool Kids Prize worth $250. The team will also distribute game used sticks, a team autographed jersey and the inaugural season hockey card collection in an uncut sheet to randomly selected fans.
On Saturday and Sunday the Fan of the Game will be awarded a prize from IceCaps Alley as well as win their very own visit with Buddy the Puffin.
Catch all the action with play-by-play broadcaster Brian Rogers at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Saturday’s game gets underway at 7:30 p.m. while the contest on Easter Sunday begins at 4:00 p.m. (all times Newfoundland).