As the IceCaps near the Quarter Pole of their 2012-13 American Hockey League season, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: St. John’s is very much a disappointing, middling hockey club.
Following the win-one, lose-one trend that’s dogged the IceCaps this season, St. John’s dropped a 2-1 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs Wednesday night at Mile One Centre, yet another loss following a win on home ice.
The IceCaps have yet to sweep a series at home, with two games remaining this Saturday and Sunday before St. John’s can say it is a quarter of the way through the season.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said a puzzled Carl Klingberg, the IceCaps’ only goalscorer last night. “If we knew, we’d do something about it.
“We’re very aware of our record at home, and that we need to win both games. We’ve got to find a way to play consistently for 60 minutes.”
The loss sent the IceCaps to sub-.500 again at 8-9. Strange thing is, though, St. John’s is only a point out of first place in the Atlantic Division.
That standing, however, only masks glaring problems that exists through the early going this year: the IceCaps’ power play is brutal (zero-for-five last night, and ranking near the bottom in the entire league), they cannot consistently score goals, and there are too many allegedly key players in the Witness Protection Program.
Spencer Machacek, the team’s leading scorer last season, has gone a dozen games without a point. It’s 10 games and counting for Ben Maxwell. Aaron Gagnon hasn’t picked up a point this season. Paul Postma, the top defenceman and team MVP last year, was a healthy scratch Tuesday.
Consider this: the Bulldogs started Wednesday’s game second-last in the Western Conference, losers of five of their six road games; and last weekend, the Albany Devils arrived in St. John’s holding down last place in the Eastern Conference, but left Newfoundland with three of four points.
The IceCaps, it seems, are proving to be just what the doctor ordered for what ails weaker AHL teams.
St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge surprised more than a few Wednesday when he elected to start Mark Dekanich in goal rather than Eddie Pasquale, who was coming off a 45-save performance in a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs Tuesday.
But then, Buddy the Puffin could have tended goal for the IceCaps through the opening period and five minutes into the second when the Bulldogs managed all but two shots.
However, Hamilton came alive and Dekanich, to his credit, held the fort and finished the night with 23 saves.
Goaltending, clearly, is not the problem with the IceCaps.
Consider this stat, keeping in mind the Bulldogs scored twice in the middle frame Wednesday: St. John’s has been outscored 24-11 in the second this season, home and away.
“We’ve been an inconsistent team, and that definitely reflects on our second periods,” McCambridge said.
As they did Tuesday, the IceCaps got on the scoreboard first on Klingberg’s goal with 10 seconds left in the first period.
It stood that way until Michael Blunden finished off a two-on-one play caused by an ill-advised pinch by rookie St. John’s defenceman Will O’Neill at the Hamilton blueline.
Steve Quailer netted the game-winner with 24 seconds left in the second, a weird goal that saw the puck bounce off the end boards and land on the Hamilton player’s stick, as Dekanich was looking the other way.
The IceCaps are off today before they practice Friday in preparation for this weekend’s series.
On deck are the Providence Bruins. Oh yes, the Bruins are one of the lousier teams in the East this season, too.