Keith McCambridge admits his IceCaps are a frustrated, struggling group of hockey players right now, but the St. John’s coach is resolute in maintaining the glass remains half full within the walls of the American Hockey League team’s locker room.
“We’re frustrated right now not putting the puck in the net,” McCambridge said following the IceCaps’ 3-0 loss to the Bruins in Providence, R.I. Sunday, “and frustrated with not be able to generate points.
“But when I look at the game Saturday night (a 3-2 overtime decision over the Worcester Sharks in Worcester, Mass.), I thought we played a real strong game. We played the way we need to play.
“And when I look at the game in Portland (Friday, a 3-0 loss to the Pirates), we generated lots of (scoring) chances. We hit two posts on one power play, and we had an open net that we should have scored, and need to score on.
“So the chances are there.”
While that may be the case, the numbers, however, do not lie.
Sunday’s setback to the Bruins — who posted their first win on home ice this season — marked the fourth time in their past six games the IceCaps (5-6) have been shut out. In that stretch, the current has been zapped from the IceCaps’ power play which has gone a woeful one-for-33.
But the IceCaps haven’t just faltered with the man advantage. In their first 11 games this season, St. John’s has managed to score more than three goals in a single game just once — that coming in a last-goal-wins 8-7 bonanza over the Pirates last month at Mile One.
“At the end of the day,” McCambridge said, “you have to ensure your power play and five-on-five is executing, and right now our execution isn’t at the level it needs to be. You can’t win games if you don‘t score on the power play. You might win or two, but eventually it’s going to catch up to you and it’s catching up to us now.”
Sunday, Bobby Robins scored 22 seconds into the game, and Carter Camper and Lane MacDermid added insurance markers for the Bruins. Niklas Svenberg has an easy time posting the shutout with just 18 saves.
Eddie Pasquale, meantime, was very busy in the St. John’s goal, facing 38 Providence shots.
So what’s up with the IceCaps?
Well, veterans Ben Maxwell and Jason King each have only one goal and Spencer Machacek, after potting three goals in his first five games, has gone six games without a point. Carl Klingberg hasn’t scored since the first game of the year (though he did miss four games to injury) and rookie Ivan Telegin has found the back of the net only once despite appearing in 10 games.
And Alex Burmistrov, the locked-out Winnipeg Jet, has only one goal in 11 games.
“Alex is fine in my books,” McCambridge said of his talented Russian, who has spent the past two years in the NHL. “He’s getting a lot of chances. He’s frustrated right now, along with a lot of other guys. But he’s a player who is targeted by other teams so his space on the ice is very limited. Eventually, those pucks are going in the net for him and everybody.
“You hear it all the time of guys gripping their stick a little tighter (when they’re slumping). We’ve heard that a million times.
“I’m never one to make excuses about playing three-games-in-three-days, and coming in here 3 o’clock in the afternoon after playing Worcester last night and Providence sitting idle (Saturday). But It was a factor tonight. Still, we have to find a way. We had chances to score goals and we didn’t. We have to be better.”
Paul Postma’s introduction to the lineup, after missing the first eight games of the season to a leg injury, paid off Saturday as his shot found its way to the back of the net with 12 seconds remaining in overtime in Worcester.
Maxime Macenauer, who broke the IceCaps’ goalless skid of 140 minutes and 43 seconds, and John Albert also scored for St. John’s and Mark Dekanich made 16 saves for the win.
Friday night in Portland, Chad Johnson made 31 saves in the Pirates’ 3-0 win. Chris Brown, Brett Hextall and Brendan Shinnimin scored the goals.
“As a team, we have a lot of positives on which to build,” said the ever-positive McCambridge. “Against Norfolk at home (a 2-0 St. John’s loss last Sunday), we gave ourselves a chance to win with good opportunities and strong goaltending. Their goalie was really good Friday in Portland.
“But we’ve got to find ways to win those games. That’s the end of the story.”
The IceCaps’ five-game road trip continues Wednesday in Manchester, N.H. against the Monarchs and clews up next Sunday with a game against the Bears in Hershey, Pa.
St. John’s is home again Nov. 16-17 against the Albany Devils.