O'Dell, Albert help St. John's to a win in final regular-season home game Meech, DeSantis return to bolster blueline
Springfield Falcons' goaltender Paul Dainton reaches with his stick to stop a shot by St. John's IceCaps' forward John Albert (16) during AHL action at Mile One Centre in St. John's Sunday. The IceCaps won 4-3 in their final home game before the playoffs start later this month. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Patching together a lineup these past few days and weeks with everything short of gum, glue and Tuck Tape, you can understand why Keith McCambridge would hardly consider it a headache finding icetime for a pair of pistol-hot rookies when the cavalry arrives with reinforcements, supposedly in time for the Calder Cup playoffs.
"That would be facing good decisions," McCambridge said. "Tough decisions? That would be facing decisions where I'm not trying to piece lineups together.
"I'd be facing decisions we haven't had to face in quite a while."
The IceCaps' lineup Easter Sunday produced an entertaining 4-3 win over the Springfield Falcons at Mile One Centre, rebounding from a pitiful effort Saturday night in a 6-3 loss.
Sunday's game finally gave IceCaps fans a glimmer of hope with the return of Jason DeSantis, who missed a game with a leg injury, and, of greater note, fellow rearguard Derek Meech also hauling on a blue and white IceCaps jersey.
Meech has appeared in only five games this season, three with St. John's and a pair with the Winnipeg Jets.
His season was all but shot with a pair of right knee injuries, though Meech, a veteran of 128 NHL games with Winnipeg and the Detroit Red Wings, looked very comfortable Sunday.
And it gets better.
Paul Postma, who was named the IceCaps MVP and top defenceman prior to the game, figures to be in the lineup this weekend for one or perhaps all three games as the IceCaps close out their regular season in New England.
And Spencer Machacek - with two goals and seven assists while on a recent 10-game NHL recall - and Patrice Cormier return from Winnipeg today.
As for captain Jason Jaffray, Maxime Macenauer, Ray Sawada, Marco Rosa and the mysterious Brock Trotter - we still have not seen Trotter since the IceCaps got him on loan from Portland last month - McCambridge totes out the ol' company line of "day to day".
Given they've been day to day for a while now, that must mean from the 1st to the 31st.
"We're actually hoping this week during practice that we're going to be able to get our lineup pieced together going into the first game on this road trip," the coach said.
So if all goes according to plan, it will be a much different lineup to open the post-season than the one we saw this past weekend. A Calder Cup playoff lineup, Postma said, "that I'll take our chances with every night."
But will that lineup include Eric O'Dell and John Albert, two first-year players who just might be the IceCaps' best skaters right now?
O'Dell, the former Sudbury Wolves junior, netted a pair of goals Sunday, including the game-winner, and that after scoring his first professional hat trick in Saturday's loss.
Last Tuesday, he collected two assists in a 5-2 win over Portland, his first game back after missing seven to injury.
Albert, meanwhile, had an assist Sunday and two helpers Saturday, giving the Ohio State University grad a goal and six assists in his last five games.
"When you look at Machacek and Cormier returning, and all those guys on the IR (injured reserve) looking to come back, you want to have balance in your top four lines, balance in your six D," said McCambridge.
"Did O'Dell make a case for himself? He definitely did. The game is about making the most of your opportunities and Eric did that. But we have a lot of good players who aren't playing who have made cases for themselves all season long, also."
Kevin Clark and Jason King, with his team-leading 21st goal, also scored for St. John's. Andrew Joudrey, Sean Collins and Alexandre Giroux replied.
Meech's impact was felt in the second period when he assisted on Clark's 12th goal on the year. The veteran rearguard made a nice cross-ice pass to a streaking Clark, who wired a shot over Paul Dainton's shoulder.
"I ran out of gas in the first period," said the 27-year-old Winnipeg native. "I got my second wind in the second period and overall felt pretty decent.
"It felt great to be back on the ice. It's been a pretty tough year with back to back injuries and lots of rehab. It definitely felt great to get out there and compete again."
"Meech is veteran guy back there," McCambridge said.
"You can see the pass he made to Clark on the power play. That's a real added bonus to us. And DeSantis (the IceCaps' second-leading scorer among defencemen) adds another offensive element back there.
"Any time you can inject players like that into your lineup, when you're fighting injuries and callups, it's going to give you that added boost."
In addition to Paul Postma getting the IceCaps' most valuable player and top defenceman awards after scoring 13 goals and 44 points in 55 games, goaltender Eddie Pasquale was named the top rookie for St. John's. Pasquale is 22-11-1, with a 2.41 goals against average and .911 save percentage. The Fans Choice award went to popular veteran Garth Murray, while Jason King won the IceCaps' Community Man of the Year award ... Pasquale made 26 saves Sunday. Saturday, the IceCaps goaltending was shaky with David Aebischer allowing four goals and nine shots, and Pasquale allowing a goal on the first shot he faced in relief. St. John's had coach Keith McCambridge offered a baseball analogy when asked about Aebischer: "He didn't get any run support." ... IceCaps' rookie Eric O'Dell was the second star of the game Saturday and the first star Sunday ... The Mary Brown's hardest working IceCaps were two defenceman: Ben Chiarot on Saturday and Derek Meech on Sunday ... St. John's rearguard Travis Ramsey, who was minus-two and stripped of the puck which led to a goal Saturday, sat his first game of the season Sunday ... Former St. John's Fog Devil junior Tim Spencer played Saturday night for Springfield, but didn't dress Sunday ...
To view a video of The Telegram's TELY TOSS at Sunday's game, CLICK HERE.