Hangs tough in first start since return from Winnipeg , backstops St. John's to a sixth straight win
St. John's IceCaps' goaltender Peter Mannino reacts as the puck bounces off his mask and over the net in AHL action Sunday against the Connecticut Whale at Mile One Centre in St. John's. Mannino made 35 saves and was the game's first star as the IceCaps won 4-3. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Two's company and three may be a crowd, but Peter Mannino and Eddie Pasquale are starting to make some elbow room for themselves in the cluttered St. John's IceCaps goal crease.
A day after Pasquale ran his unbeaten streak to six games with an 8-4 St. John's win over the Connecticut Whale, it was Mannino's turn, as the 27-year-old from the Detroit suburbs backstopped the IceCaps to a 4-3 decision Sunday afternoon with a first-star performance.
It was the sixth straight win for the IceCaps, despite losing captain Jason Jaffray - who paced St. John's with three goals Saturday - and defenceman Arturs Kulda to Winnipeg on recall.
St. John's, registering its first two-game sweep on home ice this season, leads the American Hockey League at 11-2-3-0.
The IceCaps trailed 3-1 after the opening 15 minutes Sunday afternoon before 6,287 at Mile One Centre when Mannino, fresh off recall to the Jets, allowed three goals on nine shots.
But the veteran recovered, and was otherwise flawless as the IceCaps tallied three straight goals over the next 45 minutes, including two by Corner Brook's Jason King.
Mannino spent just two weeks in Winnipeg, appearing in a relief effort last Thursday night, a 5-2 Florida Panthers' win over the Jets.
Arriving in St. John's Friday, it was that inactivity which might account for the shaky start Sunday, although the first goal came on the power play, and the third goal was redirected into the St. John's net off Carl Hagelin's face.
"I saw a lot of shots at practice in Winnipeg, but when you get into a game, you realize, 'Oh yeah, there is traffic in this game.' Players screen you.
"The first three goals found a way to get past me, but I stayed positive. Momentum changes in this game. I was able to see the rest of the shots and get a little rhythm, and it went from there."
"I wanted to leave him in to see if could battle his way through it," said IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge, "and he did that. It was a testament to him.
"He got better and better as the game went on."
With St. John's trailing by two goals, Mannino made a breakaway save off Tommy Grant in the first period, and then made the save of the game less than two minutes into the third and the game tied 3-3, foiling Hagelin who was sprung free on a shorthanded breakaway.
That set the stage for rookie Eric O'Dell's winner at 16:59 of the third. Kyle Bushee had the other St. John's goal.
Grant and former St. John's and Toronto Maple Leaf John Mitchell had the other Connecticut goals.
McCambridge wouldn't say if the third goalie in the mix -- David Aebischer - will get some playing time next weekend when the Norfolk Admirals visit Mile One, other than he's, "looking for the goalie who's going to run with it.
"I want to play the best goalie who's going to win us hockey games."
Aebischer, the former Stanley Cup-winner with the Colorado Avalanche, has struggled compared to Mannino and Pasquale, with a 2-3 record, 3.49 goals against average and less-than-sparkling .871 save percentage.
"Everybody would like to have a couple of guys instead of three," said Mannino, who improved to 3-2 with a 2.58 GAA. "But at the end of the day, you have no say. Winnipeg will do what it wants, and we have to respect whatever decision they make."
With the recall of Jaffray and Kulda Sunday, Winnipeg had five players from the St. John's roster, with defencemen Brett Festerling, Paul Postma and Mark Flood also with the big team.
St. John's will get some help up front this week when Kenndal McArdle arrives in town. McArdle has yet to pick up a point in nine games with the Jets.
McCambridge and veteran Garth Murray, who did the spadework on O'Dell's game-winner, spoke of the IceCaps' depth. One indication of that depth lies in the fact St. John's led all AHL teams entering Sunday's game with 58 goals, yet its top scorer, Marco Rosa, was only 38th overall in league scoring.
"When you lose guys on the back end like we have, lose players like Jaffray, all good players who are contributing," said McCambridge, "yet continue without missing a beat, it says a lot about that dressing room ... a lot of character in there.
"We find ways to come back when we're down, we find ways to hold on to wins and get two points out of teams."
Saturday night's game drew 6,503, the largest crowd ever gathered for a hockey game at Mile One. The attendance included those in suites and party boxes, which were full ... Kyle Bushee and Zach Redmond, who was superb in the two games, scored their first goals as IceCaps over the weekend ... Rearguard Paul Postma has been reassigned to St. John's by the Jets, although it could be a mere paper transaction as he may be back on Winnipeg's roster by the time the IceCaps play again. That's Friday, when they host Norfolk at Mile One ... The Mary Browns hardest working IceCaps for the two weekend games were Redmond and fellow defenceman Travis Ramsey ...