Cup final dream ends too early

Robin
Robin Short
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Well, so much for that idea.

Imagine, we could all muse just last week, if St. John’s and Toronto could hook up in the Calder Cup championship series? An all-Canadian final, pitting little ol’ St. John’s taking on big, bad TO. The whole Maple Leafs’ history in St. John’s dredged up all over again.

A series that would have had St. John’s on wheels …

And then the wheels fell off.

Post mortem underway

Seconds after the final buzzer sounded Tuesday, mercifully putting the undermatched St. John’s IceCaps out of their misery against a superlative Norfolk Admirals, the post mortem was underway.

The truth is, the IceCaps were all but doomed after failing to generate anything close to resembling an offensive attack in the early going Tuesday night, when St. John’s enjoyed six minutes of man-advantage hockey, thanks to a double minor by Cory Conacher and another tripping penalty to Conacher 45 seconds after he left the penalty box.

Then Evan Oberg smacked the puck past Eddie Pasquale for a 1-0 Norfolk lead.

After that, things were quickly shaping up to be a facsimile of last Thursday night’s Game 1, when the Admirals took the IceCaps to school in a 6-1 rout.

Instead, it finished 4-0, same as the 4-0 playoff series win for the Admirals, who are headed to their first Calder Cup in the 22-year history of the AHL in Virginia.

On a night the Mile One faithful — 6,287 strong, again — used their hands and feet to say so long to the blue and white, you couldn’t help but think it was the IceCaps’ hands — cold hands — that led to their playoff demise.

Consider this: Jason King had only two goals in 15 playoff games. Patrice Cormier? Three goals. And Brock Trotter, the alleged playoff performer, brought in to boost the IceCaps’ post season chances? Not a point in the last six playoff contests (though he did, in fairness, play well against Syracuse, and early on against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).

And Aaron Gagnon, who had a pair of goals in Game 7 of the second-round series against the Penguins? Held off the scoresheet in the final.

And what about Carl Klingberg, the rookie who had a point in every other game during the regular season? He finished the year on a 17-game scoring drought, then potted only one in the playoffs.

Klingberg closed out his season watching the final two games from the press box, a healthy scratch.

Require more evidence of the power outage? Against Norfolk, the IceCaps were outscored 14-2. Their power play was a miserable one-for-25.

The Admirals’ goaltender, Dustin Tokarski, went the final 158 minutes and nine seconds without allowing a goal.

“We were getting opportunities,” said King, the IceCaps’ de facto captain with Jason Jaffray on the sidelines. “We probably weren’t getting great quality opportunities, but the fact is we didn’t bury them, plain and simple.

“It was frustrating, no question. There was a bunch of us probably over-thinking, gripping the stick a little too tight. When you get those chances, you have to make them count. That’s the reality of it.”

This was shaping up to be quite the season for IceCaps hockey, a year in which whispers of a repeat of 1991-92, when another first-year AHL team from St. John’s went to the championship final.

For much of the year, the IceCaps were atop the Eastern Conference. Eddie Pasquale, who would become the darling of the Mile One occupants, emerged from third-string backup to front-line starter.

And we spoke of their depth, of the fact there was no real first line with this bunch, but a whole gaggle of players who could come with the big goal on any given night.

That depth got real shallow against the Admirals.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that Spencer Machecek, the team’s leading scorer during the season, missed the series against Norfolk after injuring his groin and lower abdominal muscle in Game 7 against the Penguins.

It was hard enough for fans to watch, so imagine Machacek, who had barely missed a game in four years, watching from atop … and wondering?

“It was very difficult. Too difficult. We just couldn’t get that one bounce to open the flood gates,” he said.

“I know the guys put it all out there.”

Machacek wasn’t the only injured IceCap. Arturs Kulda, on a sore ankle, wouldn’t have played in the regular season. Brett Festerling had a banged up shoulder. There was an assortment of other maladies.

“You need guys to stay healthy,” coach Keith McCambridge said. “Losing our captain (Jaffray) in Norfolk (during the regular season) was a big hit, same as losing Machacek in Game 7.

“There are a lot of things that need to fall into place (to enjoy playoff success). Those things start to crumble away with losing these pieces of the puzzle.”

Yup, and it really starts to fall apart when those left behind suddenly forget where the net is.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

 

 

Organizations: IceCaps, Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Norfolk, Toronto, Syracuse Wilkes-Barre

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Recent comments

  • Stan
    May 29, 2012 - 15:21

    To Robert. This is not the NHL where the team has to learn to win. 50% of the team won't be back next season. This is how the AHL works. Look up the veteran rule. Of the 7 Dmen used in the playoffs 2 will be back and 3 at the very most. This team sucked the deeper they got into playoffs.

  • Ron Murphy
    May 23, 2012 - 19:43

    People, get a grip and face facts: the IceCaps couldn't put the puck in the ocean against the Admirals. Two goals in four games? In the conference final? The guy is only stating the obvious. Put your poms-poms aside for the summer.

  • Chris
    May 23, 2012 - 14:51

    Just another negative article from the Telegram's sports editor. Wow. They deserve better than this hack. I wish Brendan McCarthy wrote all of the articles for the Caps. Much better perspective and objectivity. See his take... Swept away Published on May 23, 2012, Brendan McCarthy http://www.thetelegram.com/Sports/2012-05-23/article-2985750/Swept-away/1

  • Chris
    May 23, 2012 - 14:45

    Just another negative article from the Telegram's sports editor. Wow. They deserve better than this hack. I wish Brendan McCarthy wrote all of the articles for the Caps. Much better perspective and objectivity. See his take... Swept away Published on May 23, 2012, Brendan McCarthy http://www.thetelegram.com/Sports/2012-05-23/article-2985750/Swept-away/1

  • AR
    May 23, 2012 - 11:14

    Hey, Robin Short, did you actually watch games 3 and 4 at Mile One or did you spend your time hove back , yackin' and scarfin' down pizza ?. Your comment that the IceCaps players ' suddenly forgot where the net is ', is totally unfair to all the IceCaps players. The IceCaps were up against a team that was superior in all areas, faster, bigger, stronger on the puck and along the boards, with superior puck handling, passing, and positional play, a team that won 29 straight games, the longest winning streak in AHL or NHL history. The IceCaps couldn't penetrate the Norfolk end, and when they did manage to get a half decent shot, they were stymied by Dustin Tokarski, an NHL calibre goaltender. 6,287 fans stood and cheered with two and a half minutes left in the third period , to show the IceCaps how much they appreciated the fact that their team tried its best. That's the least you could have done, Mr. Short, instead of writing your ' they forgot where the net is ' garbage.

  • NL Fan
    May 23, 2012 - 11:06

    I agree Telegrump! Robin Short for doing this for years you would think you would know how to write a better article than this. I am pretty sure that the fan's do not feel this way and for you to talk about the Ice Cap's in this way show you be quite disrespectful towards them. They played a amazing first season for us and we, "THE FANS" couldn't be prouder of the job they have done. If the last 5 minutes or so didn't show you that we stand proud behind our team, WIN OR LOSE then you should probably find something better suited for you to write about.

  • K Kelly
    May 23, 2012 - 10:43

    Mr. Short, You may want to check your FACTS before you write your articles - Brock Trotter DID have a point in the game on May 17th - he had an assist so your statement of "not a point in the last six playoff contests" is incorrect! Please correct your article. Congrats to the Ice Caps for a great season!!

  • Don
    May 23, 2012 - 08:36

    The Icecaps were beaten by a better organization. The Admirals took the series in 4 straight games, scored 14 goals to the Icecaps 2, shutout the Icecaps twice. It was good to see professional hockey return to St. John's. Back when the St. John's Leafs played their first season here, they made it to the finals but lost and never did as well again. Next year's team will be different the same as the rest of the teams in the league. That's hockey!

  • Morhockey
    May 23, 2012 - 08:27

    Congratulations to the Ice Caps and their fans on an excellent first season in the AHL. It was unfortunate that your team ran against a juggernaut team in the Norfolk Admirals. Best wishes in the coming seasons - your strong fan base deserves a winner!

  • Telegrump
    May 23, 2012 - 07:39

    Robin Short, try to show some respect for a team that had an amazing opening season. The Ice Caps gave Newfoundlanders another thing to be proud of, and as Telegram Sport Editor, I expected more than closing with "Yup, and it really starts to fall apart when those left behind suddenly forget where the net is." Nice one... Does the Telegram have any better writers than this?

    • LH
      May 23, 2012 - 08:30

      Telegrump - Agree completely. Robin Short once again shows his lack of class!

    • A
      May 23, 2012 - 10:08

      "the undermatched IceCaps"? "A facsimile of last Thursday night's...". This article is the real disappointment.

  • Robert
    May 23, 2012 - 07:33

    For the very 1st season I'm not even sure if winning it all would have been the best for the long haul. There is value in learning how to lose and when you honestly hate to lose the gritty things needed to win take over. Even for the fans; had the Ice Caps won it all this year what would the expectations be for the next year and beyond. The Ice Caps were competitive all year, put a very good product on the ice and the fans always went home happy. now that's the recipe for success. Thanks to Mr.Williams and the great organization (from the Jets right on down the line) for having the courage to bring an AHL team back to St. John's/Newfoundland.