On paper, at least, it shouldnʼt be close. Entering a Paddyʼs Day weekend series at Mile One, the St. Johnʼs IceCaps have dominated the Manchester Monarchs this season, winning all five matchups. While the IceCaps have a playoff spot all but locked up, the Monarchs are in a battle for the final two playoff spots in the East, with only four points separating eight teams.
Of course, the same thing could have been said of the Hamilton Bulldogs earlier this week, and Hamilton, which will see no Calder Cup playoff action this spring, upset St. Johnʼs 4-2 in the series opener Tuesday.
So it just goes to show games — surprise! — are not played on paper.
“Letʼs be frank,” IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge was saying Friday afternoon, “and no disrespect to Hamiltonʼs game, but they didnʼt bring an A lineup. It was a sub-par lineup that beat us. So I like the way we responded.”
There are only 15 games left in the IceCapsʼ regular season, a point in time when the legs are getting a bit heavy, when the spring in the step isnʼt quite so, well, springy.
After this series against the Los Angeles Kingsʼ farm club, the IceCaps hit the road for six games through New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia before returning home for another four games against Portland and Springfield.
Itʼs at this point in the season, McCambridge said, that the IceCapsʼ coaches have less to say to the players. Oh, thereʼs the standard pregame preparation stuff, information on what the oppositionʼs tendencies are on special teams, the usual video on what to do in the offensive and defensive zones.
“We still put in place those game plans,” McCambridge said, “but this is the time of year the room takes hold. Where before coaches harped on little things, ensuring details are still there, now the room knows what needs to be done.”
"The room" McCambridge is referring to would be the veterans on the IceCaps, the players who have been around the pro game, like captain Jason Jaffray and Jason King and Garth Murray.
“They know where we are in the season. They know what has to take place on the ice that will give us success,” he said.
Brock Trotter (lower body), obtained by the IceCaps on loan from the Portland Pirates two weeks ago, has been skating at Mile One this week, but still wonʼt be ready to go against the Monarchs.
“Itʼs just a matter of him getting back to as close to 100 per cent as he can be," McCambridge said about Trotter, a centre who is expected to add to the IceCapsʼ offence. “Weʼre not concerned.” And keeping with injuries, David Aebischer (lower body) skated in practice this week, but McCambridge wasnʼt certain if the Swiss goalie would be ready to go against the Monarchs.
Either way, Eddie Pasquale will be making his seventh straight start in tonightʼs contest. The only question is whether the backup will be Aebischer or Chris Carrozzi.
———— According to some reports, the Winnipeg Jets are signing Scott Zurevinski to an AHL contract. Zurevinski captained the Quinnipiac Bobcats NCAA Division I team this season. The Bobcats lost 4-0 to Colgate in the third and deciding game of the ECAC championship quarter-finals .... The Jets signed defenceman Julian Melchiori to a three-year entry level contract Friday. Melchiori, 20, started the season with the Ontario Hockey Leagueʼs Kitchener Rangers before he was dealt to the Oshawa Generals. In 50 games, Melchiori has 36 points... In the seven games since Brian Burke canned Ron Wilson, the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone 2-7. Since Feb. 1, Toronto is 6-15. Would a team play to have its general manager fired? ... In the 21 games Teddy Purcell has played since Feb. 1, he has seven goals and 21 assists. Starring on an NHL team, in Tampa Bay, making $2,362,500 US this year and next. Can it possibly get any better? ... Then thereʼs Michael Ryder, with 13 goals and eight assists in 22 games since the first of February. Is there a luckier hockey player out there? After three seasons of 25, 30 and 30 goals, heʼs left for dead in Montreal by coach Guy Carbonneau. He signs in Boston, and rebounds with a 27-goal season. In the final year of his contract, he languishes through a middling year, only to emerge as one of Bostonʼs top three or four forwards in the playoffs, en route to the Stanley Cup. In the off-season, he signs for $7 million over two years with Dallas, on nobodyʼs radar to be much of a contender this season. With 11 games left in the regular season, the Stars are first in the Pacific Division and might actually make some noise in the post season ... On the flip side, whatʼs up with Ryane Clowe, and only three goals in 22 games? ...