IceCaps and Penguins return to Mile One for Game 6 on Friday night
The St. John's IceCaps' Zach Redmond and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' Eric Trangradi (25) battle for the puck during Game 5 of the teams' AHL Calder Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference second-round series Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Penguins won the game 3-2 in double overtime to stay alive in the best-of-seven series which returns to Mile One Centre in St. John's for Game 6 Friday night. Game 7, if necessary, is scheduled for Saturday night in St. John's. Photo by Mark Moran The Citizens' Voice
The St. John's IceCaps are about to find out exactly what their home-ice advantage is.
On Wednesday, the IceCaps and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins travelled to St. John's, where they will resume their best-of-seven American Hockey second-round playoff series Friday night.
The IceCaps lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2 with a second chance to finish off the series in Game 6 at Mile One Centre. They came oh so close to doing it Tuesday, but lost in double overtime at the Mohegan Sun Centre in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
"They were a desperate team with their season up against the ropes," said St. John's head coach Keith McCambridge after the 3-2 loss. "They will be again.
"Would we have to liked to finish it here? Of course. Are we disappointed that we didn't. Yes, we are. But now, we are in a situation where we are going home needing to win one of two games and that's a good situation."
If a Game 7 is necessary, it would be played Saturday at Mile One. But goaltender Eddie Pasquale, who has been a steady Eddie for St. John's in the playoffs, doesn't want to hear about that possibility.
"We knew it wasn't going to be a 4-1 series," he said in the wake of the Game 5 loss.
"But we need to win (Friday). We have to close it out. Anything can happen in a Game 7. We want this over in Game 6."
Pasquale has a 2.05 goal-against average and .932 save percentage through nine playoff games this spring. His standout play - and that of his Penguins counterpart, Brad Thiessen (2.07 GAA) - has been particularly important in this hard-fought, low-scoring matchup. St. John's has 11 goals to Wilkes-Barre's 10, and taking into account that the last three games of the series - all played at the Mohegan Sun - went into overtime, exact math says both teams are averaging less than two goals per regulation 60 minutes.
While tallies have been hard to come by - neither team has had more than three in a game in the series, even in those games that have gone to extended to time - McCambridge says video reviews by the coaching staff have shown the IceCaps have been getting quite a few quality chances.
If so, they aren't coming as a result of a shooting barrage by St. John's. In the last 13 full-time periods between the two teams, the IceCaps have gone to double digits in shots on goal just twice.
In order, the by-period shot clock for the IceCaps in each game of the series:
Game 1 (won 3-1 by SJs): 20-7-10
Game 2 (won by WBS 3-1): 6-5-12
Game 3 (won by SJs 2-1 in OT): 9-0-4 (plus 5 in 10:02 of OT)
Game 4 (won 3-2 by SJs in OT): 9-11-5 (plus 4 in 27 seconds of OT)
Game 5 (won 3-2 by WBS in 2OT): 7-3-8-9 (plus 2 in the 12:08 of second OT)
St. John's winger Jason King was obviously thinking about that Game 1 win, which included a shot-a-minute opening frame by St. John's, as he looked ahead to Game 6.
"We need to come out with a good start," said King. "We know they (the Penguins) are a good team. They know we're a good team. But we know how we play at home and we're excited to get back in front of our fans."
On Wednesday, McCambridge said he was considering changes to the lineup for Game 6, but did not elaborate. However, it's hard not to take note of some individual stats by IceCaps in this series, beginning with junior-aged centre Mark Scheifele, who doesn't have a point in the last five games. Then again, the line of Patrice Cormier, Spencer Machacek and Maxime Macenauer only has produced one goal in the series, although it has been perhaps the most consistent unit when it comes when mounting sustained pressure on the Penguins.
In all, St. John's has 26 goals in the playoffs and 17 have come from five players - Brock Trotter (5), defenceman Derek Meech (4), and eight in total from the line of King (2), Aaron Gagnon (3), and Ben Maxwell (3).
If the St. John's coach is looking for new options up front, he can look to Marco Rosa and Kevin Clark, who have both already seen action in these playoffs, and rookies Jason Gregoire and Eric O'Dell, who have travelled with team, but haven't dressed for any games.
On defence, McCambridge sounded hopeful Arturs Kulda can go Friday after sitting out Game 5 with a leg injury.