The St. John’s IceCaps snapped out of their early-season doldrums week, stringing together a modest three-game win streak against teams at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Saturday night, the IceCaps hooked up with one of the American Hockey League’s better teams and were reminded there’s still some work to be done.
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins scored two goals 3:07 in, and went on to register a 5-3 win at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza Saturday night in eastern Pennsylvania.
The Penguins have been on fire since Oct. 26, going 13-3 and are currently riding a five-game win streak. One of those victories was a 5-3 decision over the East-leading Syracuse Crunch Friday night.
The loss drops the IceCaps to 11-10-0-1 on the year.
The Penguins took control of the opening half of the first period, registering the first 12 shots of the game taking an early lead on goals by Simon Despres and Warren Peters.
“That was as good a first period as I’ve seen,” the Penguins’ Dylan Reese told the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice. "We were just flying, clicking on all cylinders. That was one of the best periods I’ve seen from a team in the American Hockey League.”
Reese, Benn Ferriero and former IceCap Riley Holzapfel also scored for the Penguins. Jason Jaffray had a goal and two assists in a losing cause. Ray Sawada and Spencer Machacek also scored.
Machacek, with seven points in his last four games, has clearly emerged from a 13-game funk in which he failed to manufacture a point.
Jaffray got the IceCaps on the scoreboard with his third goal on the year with 1:10 remaining the first period.
Sawada tied the game at the 3:45 mark of the second period, redirecting Julian Melchiori’s shot from the blueline past Jeff Zatkoff.
But the Penguins regained the lead with 20 seconds remaining in the middle frame on a power play, when Reese fired a shot from the blueline that eluded Eddie Pasquale, making his fifth straight start.
The Reese goal ended a stretch of 26 straight penalties which the IceCaps had killed off.
Ferriero notched the game-winner 2:14 into the third on a play with Holzapfel and Beau Bennett.
Machacek and Holzapfel, with en empty-netter, traded third-period goals.
Pasquale, who had posted shutouts in two of his last three starts before Saturday’s game, faced 29 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shots. The IceCaps managed only 16 shots on goal.
Friday, Pasquale stopped all 24 shots in blanking the Albany Devils 1-0 at Times Union Centre.
Zach Redmond scored the game’s only goal, his sixth on the season, at 5:53 of the second period on a feed from Jaffray.
Meantime, Travis Ramsey (broken hand), Patrice Cormier (knee surgery), Jason King (undisclosed) and Hunter Tremblay (concussion-like symptoms) did not make the trip. Cormier has appeared in only three games this season. He is skating, but is not expected to be back in the lineup until after Christmas. It’s 11 games and counting for King, although he is practising with the red no-contact jersey. Eric O’Dell travelled with the IceCaps, but did not dress, making it three straight games on the sidelines for him.
The IceCaps are off today, but will be at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Centre and the Janeway Children’s Hospital to meet with patients and families.
They’re back on the ice Tuesday, preparing for a two-game series this weekend at Mile One Centre against the Springfield Falcons (11-4-1-3).