The St. John’s IceCaps returned home Sunday night with their roster a little more nicked up, but with their remarkable road record intact.
Earlier in the day, the IceCaps downed the Toronto Marlies 4-2 at Ricoh Coliseum, meaning St. John’s has taken points away from all 10 of its road games this season. In away contests, St. John’s has eight regulation-time wins — including a 4-0 shutout of the Hamilton Bulldogs Friday night at Copps Coliseum — and two overtime losses. That’s helped the IceCaps (14-4-4) fashion the best record in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The Caps have maintained their lofty place in the standings despite a litany of player losses to injury and call-ups by the parent Winnipeg Jets. The pattern continued Sunday as St. John’s, with no extra forwards on the roster, couldn’t dress one winger, Kevin Clark, because of illness and lost another, Shawn Weller, to injury during the game.
IceCaps’ coach Keith McCambridge said Clark, believed to be suffering either the stomach flu or food poisoning, was feeling better Sunday night. As for Weller, he’ll be assessed in St. John’s today as the team prepares for four home games in six games, starting against the Syracuse Crunch Tuesday night at Mile One Centre.
“I don’t know 100 per cent if he’ll be ready for Syracuse,” said McCambridge.
With Riley Holzapfel and Jason Gregoire already in the infirmary, and Jason Jaffray and Carl Klingberg both in Winnipeg, with no indication if or when either will return, the IceCaps are looking for reinforcements.
Tommy Maxwell and Michael Forney are players under contract to the Jets’ organization playing with the Colorado Eagles, the IceCaps’ ECHL affiliate, but both are right-handed shots. Since Weller, Jaffray, Klingberg and Gregoire are all left-wingers, St. John’s needs are pretty specific.
“We’re really looking for a left-handed shot who can play the wing,” said McCambridge, adding the search for potential help had already started.
“(Jets’ pro scout) Bruce Southern submits a list every week of players from the ECHL he believes could help us. If we need a physical winger, he has them listed. The same for an offensive defenceman or defensive defencemen.
“If we need somebody, we’ll look at the guys at the top of those lists. If that happens to be someone from Colorado, all the better, but we’ll look everywhere to find the best fit.”
Sunday afternoon in Toronto, IceCaps rookie John Albert scored the game-winning goal with just over seven minutes remaining.
Kenndal McArdle, Jason King and Marco Rosa also tallied for St. John’s. The goals by McArdle, his first as an IceCap, and Rosa, who had two assists and was the game’s first star, both came on the power play.
The Marlies (13-7-4) were playing their third game in less than three days, but got off to a quick start as Darryl Boyce scored for the home side just 56 seconds in.
However, the IceCaps didn’t rattle and got McArdle’s marker in the last minute of the opening frame as they began carrying the play.
“I really like the way we responded to them scoring, pushing back against a very good team,” said McCambridge, whose club had suffered back-to-back losses to Toronto late last month at Mile One.
And McCambridge says his team never underestimated the Marlies, despite their busy schedule. For one thing, the IceCaps have first-hand knowledge of how dangerous a team can be in such circumstances — they themselves won three weekend road games in three days last month.
“But you certainly are aware they’re playing three-in-three, so one of the things we wanted to do was to get the puck in deep, behind their defence, and make them come the full 200 feet to exert energy. We did a good job of that.”
King’s second-period goal gave St. John’s a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes. Toronto’s Kelsey Wilson knotted the score at 2-2 as the Marlies found some pep early in the third. But Caps goalie David Aebischer, making his second straight start, came up with some key saves before Albert got the game-deciding tally.
Aebischer had made 21 stops and the game’s second star in getting the shutout Friday in Hamilton as he saw his first game action in nearly four weeks. But McCambridge feels the veteran netminder may have been at his best Sunday when he wasn’t too active — Toronto had just eight shots through two periods.
“He managed to stay sharp when he wasn’t busy. That showed a lot of focus,” said McCambridge.
Notes: Jason King’s goal Sunday gave him nine on the season, tied for the IceCaps’ lead with Carl Klingberg, who has been with Winnipeg the past week ... First star Spencer Machacek scored twice in St. John’s win over Hamilton on Friday ...Eddie Pasquale was the backup goalie for St. John’s Friday and Sunday. The IceCaps’ other goalie, Peter Mannino, was not available Friday as he had returned home to Michigan after the death of a teenaged cousin with cancer, but rejoined the team Sunday ... The announced attendance for Sunday’s game at Ricoh Coliseum was over 6,500, almost twice the Marlies’ average at home this season ... Marlies star Nazim Kadri was in the penalty box for both St. John’s power-play goals Sunday. “I was almost on my knees begging our guys to stay out of the box,” Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins told the Canadian Press “On days like today, you can literally only take one or two penalties” ...