Effort is key in any endeavour, but can be wasted without proper application.
The St. John's IceCaps worked hard Saturday, but more importantly, they worked a lot smarter than they did the night before, as they defeated the Norfolk Admirals 3-1 in American Hockey League action at Mile One Centre.
The result earned the IceCaps (11-3-3) a split of their two-game series with the Admirals, the farm team of the Tampa Lightning. Norfolk won 6-2 Friday.
Friday's game was roundly described as one of the worst - if not the worst - game played by the IceCaps this season. But it was clear St. John's shortcomings in the front-end contest were magnified by the quality of the opposition.
Despite Norfolk's somewhat above average record (10-7-3), St. John's players and coaches were in pretty much universal agreement that the Admirals was the best team they've faced in the last seven weeks.
"Worcester was a real good team that we've seen, but (Norfolk) was up there, if not a step ahead," said St. John's head coach Keith McCambridge. "They've got speed they've got goaltending, they've got defencemen who can move the puck.
"They're a real dynamic team."
And said St. John's centre Marco Rosa, the Admirals didn't lift their foot off the pedal Saturday, never appeared satisfied with just the points they had earned Friday.
"They were ready for both games the same way," said Rosa. "They didn't let up. We were just that much better than we were (Friday) and we had to be.
"They (the Admirals) aren't just throwing the puck anywhere. They look for teammates. They play smart. That means we had to be smarter, too.
"(Friday), when we got in trouble, we tried to flip the switch and work harder and that seemed to work against us.
"We had energy, but we were too frantic. But in between, we looked at some video and the coach had us prepared. I can't explain everything about our effort (Friday) compared to (Saturday), but I do know we were more focused."
Looking smart and staying focused, in particular, on Saturday was St. John's goaltender Peter Mannino, who made 35 saves in a first-star performance. As well, Mannino had to deal with a lot of traffic in his crease as Admirals buzzed around the net or charged in looking for rebounds.
For the most part, the Caps' keeper was unflappable, even after being bowled over on a couple of occasions. That led to the inevitable scrums between pesky Admirals and objecting IceCaps, but Mannino made it a point to stay clear of the brouhaha.
"I just get the puck and get out of there," the netminder said. "I let the mischief happen, that's not my time and place. Sometimes it is, but not most of the time. I just like to do my job, I don't want to get put out of position.
"The team feeds off that. It's really important (in) the position of a goaltender to kind of look composed the whole time. I try to do that the best I can. I can't always do it for the longest time, but the more you can, I think the better your team feels."
About the only exception came in the third period with a confrontation between Mannino and Norfolk leading point-getter Cory Conacher, who had collided with the IceCaps' netminder after scoring the Admirals' only goal early in the middle frame. That led to coincidental minors.
"We had had some fun together," said Mannino, smiling, with tongue in cheek. "That's part of the game as well. He's a good player. If I can put him in the (penalty) box for a little bit, that's fine with me."
Riley Holzapfel, Spencer Machacek and Garth Murray scored for St. John's Saturday. Murray's goal, which was the only marker in a third period that saw Norfolk outshoot St. John's 18-4, was his first of the season. But while the veteran centre was pleased to put a mark under the 'G' column, he was more satisfied with the work he and linemates John Albert and Kevin Clark did in shutting down the Norfolk line centred by Trevor Smith.
"I think they have the most even-strength goals in the league, so some might say that makes them the best line in the league and we were matched up against them all night and we came out even," said Murray, who also got the better of Smith in the faceoff circle Saturday. "That's what I'm proud about and I know it's the same for Clarky and Albert, too."
Notes: Forward Kenndal McArdle, assigned to the IceCaps by the parent Winnipeg Jets on Friday, only arrived in St. John's in the wee hours of Saturday morning and has yet to participate in a practice with his new team, but suited up Saturday ... Defenceman Paul Postma, also assigned to St. John's by Winnipeg this week, played both games and played a lot. Postma saw over 30 minutes of ice time Saturday ... Forwards Eric O'Dell and Shayne Wiebe and defenceman Ben Chiarot, all rookies, were scratches for St. John's Saturday, replaced by McArdle, Clark (who didn't play Friday because of an injury) and defenceman Jake Marto. Forward Jason Gregoire is still nursing an injury that has sidelined him for two weeks, and didn't play either game... The IceCaps close a six-game homestand with games against the Toronto Marlies Friday and Saturday ...