IceCaps can’t deliver a Sunday punch

Robin
Robin Short
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St. John’s shut out for the second time in three home games, settles for split with Norfolk after 2-0 loss

St. John’s IceCaps’ forward Aaron Gagnon circles behind the Norfolk Admirals’ net as Admirals’ goaltender Igor Bobkov watches the play during their AHL game at Mile One Centre Sunday afternoon. Bobkov stopped all 38 shots he faced as the Admirals blanked the IceCaps 2-0. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Paul Postma has yet to play a hockey game for the St. John’s IceCaps this season, the injured defenceman cited as “day to day” in the secret-handshake, cloak-and-dagger method of handling injuries nowadays.

The way things are going for the IceCaps, however, they’d better hope “day to day” soon turns to “hour to hour,”or better yet, “second to second.”

The absence of Postma, the IceCaps’ best defenceman and MVP last year, isn’t what entirely ails St. John’s, which fell to 4-4 on the year following a 2-0 shutout loss to the Norfolk Admirals Sunday, but the void is obvious.

The IceCaps poured 81 shots on Norfolk’s goal over the weekend, coming away with only three goals — in a 3-2 win Saturday night.

While Postma isn’t going to register Ray Bourque-like numbers, he is the team’s power play quarterback and the player who usually generates the offence from the back end when he’s on the ice.

“He’s an offensive-minded guy, so he’d definitely help in that category, especially on our power play,” said coach Keith McCambridge. “He was a key to it last year and will be a key when he’s on the ice this season.

“Without a doubt, he can play a solid two-way game, but, yeah, he has real good offensive instincts.”

St. John’s closed out its season-opening six-game homestand Sunday with a 3-3 record. The IceCaps won their opener and followed up with a loss, followed by a win, followed by a loss …

Worse, the IceCaps have been blanked in their last two losses at Mile One, the other being a 4-0 setback to the Portland Pirates on Wednesday.

St. John’s sputtered on the power play against Admirals over the weekend, hitting a Detroit Tigers-like one-for-11.

“We should be scoring a little more regardless, but getting him (Postma) back in the lineup definitely won’t hurt in the goal-scoring department,” said Zach Redmond, who has been filling Postma’s Bauers on the blueline quite nicely, with three goals and a pair of assists through eight games.

In addition to Postma, Jason King and Patrice Cormier also missed the Admirals series, and Ray Sawada and Ryan Schnell have also yet to play a game this season.

Normally tight-lipped on such things, McCambridge acknowledged Postma hurt himself in training camp and said the player was close to returning before re-aggravating the injury.

He hopes the lanky defenceman can be ready for an upcoming five-game road trip.

Patrick Maroon and John Mitchell scored for the Admirals Sunday, and Igor Bobkov stopped all 38 pucks he faced for the shutout.

IceCaps ended Admirals’ streak

On Saturday, the  IceCaps handed the Admirals franchise its first loss in 32 consecutive regular season games after Norfolk set a record for the top-levels of North American pro hockey (NHL and AHL) last season, closing out the year on a 28-game unbeaten streak.

The Admirals were 4-0 heading into St. John’s.

Of course, last year’s Admirals, who went on to win the Calder Cup league championship, are not this year’s Norfolk club. That’s because the Admirals today are the farm club of the Anaheim Ducks, following a number of years as the AHL affiliate for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In an ironic twist, the core of this year’s Admirals roster played last season for the Syracuse Crunch, and last year’s Norfolk team is now this year’s Crunch, where the Lightning have parked their farmhands.

Despite coming out on the losing end, McCambridge was quite satisfied with his team’s effort Sunday.

“There’s not much to fault from our game tonight,” he said. “We played the game at a good level.”

But isn’t there this little matter of failing to put teams away, a problem which plagued St. John’s for parts of last season?

“We’ve been trying to figure that out, too,” said Redmond, “and the short answer is I don’t have an answer, other than we need to figure it out.

“It’s unacceptable, and we have to do better than that. It’s going to hurt us down the stretch.”

McCambridge, who was an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose before relocating with the team and taking over the top post in St. John’s, has seen it before with teams struggling to put away their guests in back-to-back, two-game series.

At some point, however, St. John’s will need to start recording sweeps. Otherwise, the IceCaps will be looking at a .500 record at home, and that doesn’t cut it.

“We can’t be OK, and we’re not OK, with splitting series,” he said. “It’s a difficult hill to climb when you come out and win the first game and the other team is motivated and looking for the split.

“It’s a matter of ensuring our team knows that the other team is going to be hungry if they lose the first one. And we need to be the same way if we lose the first one.”

St. John’s will practise this week before leaving Thursday for a three-games-in-three-nights stretch in Portland, Worcester and Providence beginning Friday.

The IceCaps then play in Manchester, N.H. next Wednesday before finishing up in Hershey against the Bears on Saturday, Nov. 10.

St. John’s next series at home is Nov. 16-17 against the Albany Devils, a team whose roster features locked-out NHLers Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson.

rshort@thetelegram.com

NOTES

The Molson Cup three stars Sunday: 1. Igor Bobkov 2. Devante Smith-Pelly 3. Zach Redmond. The three stars Saturday in a 3-2 St. John’s win, chosen by the Canadian Press: 1. Jason Jaffray 2. Mark Dekanich 3. Eric O’Dell … Devante Smith-Pelly appeared in 49 games as a 19-year-old with the Anaheim Ducks last season … Though he leads the team in scoring, the IceCaps’ Alex Burmistrov has only one goal in eight games … Marty Wilford, a St. John’s Maple Leafs defenceman for one season, is an assistant coach on the Norfolk Admirals … IceCaps president and CEO Danny Williams will be featured on ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ Tuesday …

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, Detroit Tigers, North American NHL Tampa Bay Lightning.In Manitoba Moose Molson Canadian Press Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Norfolk, Portland, Worcester Providence Manchester, N.H. Hershey

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  • Honesttruth
    October 29, 2012 - 11:42

    Hard to win games when your power play is abysmal. Their power play isn't just bad, it sucks more than a Dyson. If they have any desire to play above .500 hockey, they desperately need to improve this issue.