Weekend Preview: IceCaps vs. Monarchs
Photos courtesy Daniel Forget
By Chris Doyle
First place is on the line this weekend as the St. John’s IceCaps get set to host the Manchester Monarchs at Mile One Centre Friday and Saturday night.
The IceCaps trail the Monarchs by just one point for top spot in the Atlantic Division but have four games in hand. A win Friday night by the IceCaps would leapfrog them ahead of Manchester and back into first place, a spot they occupied for much of the first half of the season.
St. John’s is coming off a three-game post-Christmas road swing through Southern Ontario, and went 2-1 during the trip. After beating the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1 on Dec. 28, the IceCaps split a pair of games with the Toronto Marlies, defeating Toronto 4-3 in a shootout last Friday and falling 3-1 on Sunday for the team’s first road loss in regulation time this season.
Goaltender David Aebischer has been shouldering the load between the pipes as of late, starting four of the last six contests and going 3-0-1 during that time. After a slow start to the season, Aebishcer turned things around in the month of December, posting a record of 6-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.
As has been the case for much of the season, the blueline has been a major factor in the IceCaps’ third-ranked offensive attack. Defenceman Paul Postma, rewarded Wednesday with a selection to the Eastern Conference AHL All-Star team, recorded 14 points during a 10-game December point streak and sits tied for second in team scoring, two points behind forward Marco Rosa.
Zach Redmond was also selected to represent the IceCaps at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic in Atlantic City. Redmond has played in all 32 games for St. John’s, notching four goals and 11 assists for 15 points and a plus-9 rating, second only to fellow rearguard Arturs Kulda (plus-11). Add in the offensive prowess of Jason DeSantis (five goals, 19 points in 23 games) and it’s easy to see why the IceCaps have had so much success thus far.
The Monarchs, meanwhile, are 7-3-0-0 in their past 10 games but are coming off a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday night. The Monarchs have had trouble finding consistency in putting the puck in the net, scoring just 2.64 goals per game, 24th in the AHL.
However, the goaltending has been superb, led by reigning Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December Jeff Zatkoff. The Los Angeles Kings’ third-round pick from 2006 went 5-2-0 with a miniscule 1.70 goals-against average and a solid .946 save percentage. Zatkoff’s 2.04 goals-against average for the season ranks third in the AHL.
The IceCaps lead the season series with the Monarchs 2-0. Most recently, St. John’s defeated Manchester 4-2 on Dec. 16 at the Verizon Wireless Arena on the strength of a pair of goals by Patrice Cormier (who was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets for their game Thursday night versus the Toronto Maple Leafs). Back on Oct. 8, also in Manchester, Riley Holzapfel scored the only goal in a 1-0 shutout.
Catch all the action with Brian Rogers live at www.stjohnsicecaps.com and on 930 AM This Is Newfoundland Labrador. Drop of the puck is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with the pregame show beginning at 7:00 (all times Newfoundland).