Logo for the St. John's IceCaps. — File Image
Forget fall foliage season, it’s hockey weather at it’s wintery best ... or worst, in New England.
“There’s still quite a bit of snow on the ground here, not really what we expected,” said St. John’s IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge Monday night from Worcester, Mass., where his team tangles with the AHL Sharks tonight (8:30 p.m. NT, CJYQ 930AM)
It’s the third game on a six-game road trip for the IceCaps, who began the swing Saturday in stormbound Springfield, Mass., where they lost 4-3 in overtime before an announced crowd of 2,341, but one which some reports say actually numbered around 500.
And the nearly foot of snow that fell on the area affected more than the attendance. It made the IceCaps’ 150-kilometre bus ride to Providence, R.I., a tricky one, especially at the start.
“As we were leaving Springfield, our bus was going up a hill, started spinning its tires and then slid bacwards all the way back down before hitting a snowbank,” recounted McCambridge.
“That was a little nerve-wracking.”
The St. John’s coach kept his wits about him enough to offer the driver some advice on how to extricate the vehicle from the bank.
“It was really just a matter of keeping his wheels straight and me offering just a little bit of Alaska-Manitoba know-how,” chuckled McCambridge, a Thompson, Man., native who once coached the ECHL’s Alaska Aces.
Once underway, the bus took nearly three hours to make what is normally about an hour-and-a-half trip from Springfield to Providence.
“There were trees on the highway and everything,” said McCambridge.
The next afternoon in Providence, against the Bruins, the IceCaps (5-2-3) dropped another 4-3 overtime decision.
The team at least has the consolation of taking a single point from each of the weekend games, but knows it will be in tough tonight against the Sharks (4-0-2), who have yet to lose in regulation.
“We’ve watched the video on them, we saw them in practice today and we’ve talked to scouts,” said McCambridge. “They’ve got a good, young, fast team ... full of energy.
“And their goalie is ranked No, 1 in the league.”
That’s 22-year-old Tyson Sexsmith, who has a 1.69 goals-against-average in four starts.
Worcester is led in scoring by rookie Mike Connolly. The Calgary native and University of Minnesota-Duluth product has 10 points (five goals, five assists) through six games.
The Caps’ road trip concludes with a busy weekend as they play three games in less than 48 hours, starting Friday in Hartford against the Northeast Division-leading Connecticut Whale (6-1-2).
The IceCaps head back to Worcester on Saturday before finishing the road trip in Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon against the Sound Tigers.
That kind of schedule has McCambridge appreciating the extra bodies on the St. John’s roster, which currently numbers 25.
“It’s a good time to have that depth, not only for fresh legs if we need them, but as I’ve said before, to give us the option to put someone in if someone else isn’t performing as well as he can,” he said.
However, the IceCaps’ surplus could be reduced if the parent Winnipeg Jets need a defenceman.
The Jets lost rearguard Tobias Enstrom to an upper-body injury during their 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers Monday, perhaps leaving Winnipeg with just five healthy blueliners — Ron Hainsey and Derek Meech are already on injured reserve.
Meanwhile, the Jets have goalie Peter Mannino on recall from St. John’s as Chris Mason remains day-to-day with a groin injury and McCambridge says he’s been given no indication Mannino will return soon.
Eddie Pasquale will get the start between the pipes for the IceCaps tonight after David Aebischer played both Saturday and Sunday.