With Christmas just around the corner, maybe the St. John’s IceCaps were in the spirit of giving in Saturday night’s shootout loss to the Pirates in Portland, Me., prompting coach Keith McCambridge to promise a bag of coal to each and every IceCap if they didn’t deliver a better effort in a rematch Sunday at the Cumberland County Civic Centre.
St. John’s responded to McCambridge’s threat with a 5-2 win over the Pirates to head into the Christmas break at 17-7-5, tops in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. More impressive was the fact St. John’s made it 13 games in a row in which they’ve collected at least one point away from Mile One Centre. St. John’s is 10-0-3 on the road heading into their Christmas break which began following Sunday’s game.
The IceCaps opened their latest road swing with a 4-2 win over the Monarchs in Manchester, N.H., on Friday, and followed that up with a 4-3 shootout loss in Portland Saturday night.
It marked the first time this season the IceCaps went to a shootout, and while some coaches might have taken some consolation in the fact St. John’s extended their road points streak to 12 games, McCambridge was in no mood for any pre-Christmas cheer.
“We definitely wanted to enjoy the break with a win,” McCambridge said after Sunday’s win, “but the big thing is the way we responded from the night before.
“I didn’t like the level at which we played Saturday. We set our expectations high and we were not near to where we needed to be Saturday. We did not make very good decisions with the puck ... not everybody was going. So we had a very to-the-point meeting before Sunday’s game, addressing areas in which we needed improvement. And we responded. We’ve got good, character players in that room.”
Patrice Cormier led St. John’s with two goals, his eighth and ninth on the season, and second two-goal game of the brief road trip. Jason King, Carl Klingberg and Kevin Clark netted singles. King and Klingberg lead the IceCaps with 10 goals.
Brett MacLean and Patrick O’Sullivan had the Pirates’ goals.
Eddie Pasquale stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win.
Saturday, Brett Festerling, Jason DeSantis and John Albert had the St. John’s goals in regulation time, while MacLean, with a pair, and Marc-Andre Pouliot scored for Portland.
After overtime failed to solve anything, the game went to a shootout with Portland outscoring St. John’s 3-1.
Marco Rosa, Ben Maxwell and King failed to beat Pirates’ goalie Curtis McElhinney.
David Aebischer stopped 29 shots for the IceCaps.
“I can’t think of too many teams that have a record like this,” McCambridge said of the IceCaps’ road mark.
Problem with St. John’s is the IceCaps are only 7-7-2 at Mile One.
“I’ve given that a lot of thought,” McCambridge said. “It could be the opposing teams are excited to play in front of a full house (at Mile One Centre), or they see where we are in the standings and they’re ramped up. But we’re not playing as well at home as we are on the road, and it’s a challenge to find an answer.
“We want home ice (in the playoffs) and we don’t want it to be all for not.”
Friday, Cormier netted two goals, and singles came from Ben Maxwell and Kendall McArdle. Marc-Andre Cliche and Stefan Legein replied for Manchester.
Aebischer made 26 saves.
The IceCaps are off until Dec. 27 when they convene in Hamilton, Ont., for practice. St. John’s hooks up with the Bulldogs on the 28th at Copps Coliseum and closes out the road swing with games on New Years Eve and New Year’s Day in Toronto against the Marlies.
The IceCaps are home again Jan. 6-7 for a two-game set against the Monarchs at Mile One.