With his Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts not due back on the ice from their Christmas break until next weekend, Newfoundland Senior Hockey League goaltender Mark Yetman got in some extra practice time this week with the St. John’s IceCaps.
With Eddie Pasquale nursing a sore knee, Yetman, the former Halifax Mooseheads junior from St. John’s, was in goal for a second time Thursday as the IceCaps prepared for a two-game American Hockey League series with the Manchester Monarchs starting tonight at Mile One Centre (7:30 p.m., 930AM, Rogers TV).
But Yetman won’t be donning an AHL jersey just as other local puckstops did at times for the St. John’s Maple Leafs (Dennis Lake, Tony Walshe, Roger Kennedy Sr., Terry O’Neill, Mark Abbott and Scott Bonnell among them). Backing up starter David Aebischer tonight will be a familiar face, namely Peter Mannino who was recently reassigned to the ECHL’s Chicago Express.
Mannino was with the IceCaps through the first half of the season, posting a 4-4 record and 2.86 goals against average in a cluttered St. John’s crease with Aebischer and Pasquale.
“Can he play?” coach Keith McCambridge asked of Pasquale. “Maybe. But you have to be cautious, and we have a goaltender in the ECHL who can play, so we’ll bring Mannino back.”
The parent Winnipeg Jets recalled forward Patrice Cormier Thursday morning for last night’s game in Toronto against the Leafs. It’s Cormier’s second recall in a week, having appeared in two games for the Jets against Los Angeles and Toronto.
Cormier had been hot as a pistol in December, with six goals and eight points in nine AHL games.
If Cormier is unavailable tonight, and Marco Rosa sits out his sixth straight game after getting hit in the face with a stick in Manchester before Christmas — “he’s day to day,” said McCambridge — the IceCaps’ coach will still still have a full complement of 12 forwards tonight.
The IceCaps (19-8-4-1) enter tonight’s game second in the Atlantic Division, a point behind the Monarchs, who were blanked 4-0 by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday.
St. John’s owns an impressive 12-1-2-1 record away from Mile One, but it’s on home ice where the IceCaps have struggled, going 7-7-2. St. John’s has managed only one series sweep at home, that coming against the Connecticut Whale.
“It’s just a matter of execution and intensity,” McCambridge suggests. “The intensity level drops off a little bit, and the other teams are excited to play in front of a sold out crowd.
“When you’re on the road, your focus is a little different. You’re making those higher percentage plays, getting pucks deeper to the goal line, getting in on the forecheck, spending more time in the offensive zone. At home, there’s a tendency to maybe force plays that aren’t there, and all of a sudden the puck is turned over, and you’re spending more time in your own zone, and the puck’s in the back of the net.
“The mindset is we have to ensure we’re giving ourselves a chance to win games. To me, that’s making plays like we make on the road which is if there’s an offensive chance, let’s make the plays. If there are not, let’s get pucks to the net, get traffic in front and play that type of game.”
Whatever the reason, the IceCaps need to start winning consistently on home ice. McCambridge acknowledges the team needs to build momentum at Mile One, and take advantage of the big, partisan crowd.
“You have to win at home,” he says. “Playoffs are about home ice advantage.”