Things have been bad lately for the St. John’s IceCaps, who have found themselves in a state of hardship not entirely of their own making.
That was until Wednesday night, when they showed themselves at their very worst and got the lump of coal they deserved in a 4-0 loss to the Hershey Bears at Mile One Centre.
It was a franchise-record fifth straight loss for St. John’s (11-14-1), including four consecutive at home. But unlike those previous setbacks, when the IceCaps could at least take some pride at the effort they put forth, there will be no good-try stars attached to the record of this one.
It was one of those plain-and-simple stinkers, where St. John’s continuing struggle — and often, and as was the case Wednesday, its inability — to mount any offence was compounded by a shocking lack of determination. The IceCaps never really looked like they could win in this one, and frankly never looked like a team that thought it could win.
“You can’t come in and play against a team like Hershey or any team and think you’re going to have any kind of success ... if you’re going to just coast through and not play the game the way it was meant to be played,” said St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge.
“I didn’t like our execution level. I didn’t like our consistency from line to line, from player to player with the compete level.
“I can live with the last couple of games, but I can’t digest this one.”
Zach Hamill scored the only goal Hershey (13-12-1) would need in the last minute of the first period, connecting on a back-door set-up on the power-play. It was a tally duplicated almost exactly by Jon DiSalvatore on another power-play with eight seconds remaining in the second.
Disalvatore’s was the Bears’ fourth goal and even though there was still 20 minutes remaining in the game at that point, it amounted to icing on the cake. St. John’s came out of the second intermission with more obvious resolve, but it was far from enough on this night, especially against the Bears’ Braden Holtby, who looked every bit the NHL goalie — cool and calm and collecting every shot he saw, along with a few he didn’t see.
Matt Beaudoin and Alex Berry also scored for Hershey in the middle frame, which could easily qualify as the most dismal period of the IceCaps’ 26 outings this season. It also added to St. John’s record of second-period futility. The IceCaps have now been outscored 36-17 in second periods this season. Otherwise, they’ve out-tallied the opposition 42-38.
Shots on goal Wednesday were actually 30-25 for St. John’s, which continued a consistent, but not laudable trend in the four-game home stand, where the IceCaps outshot their opponents, but lost every time.
Wednesday’s contest was the last for the IceCaps at Mile One in 2012. They leave Friday for a road trip that starts with a game Saturday in Springfield against the Falcons. In all, St. John’s will play eight times on this swing, which will be broken up by a four-day Christmas break.
This latest game certainly did not make for a positive lasting impression on home fans and Christmas-time road trips are not always favoured by players, but given the way things have been going, a switch-up of any kind might not be unwelcome.
“I think sometimes it could be good, just to have a change of pace. Last year, we were great on the road, especially the first half. Hopefully, we can carry that forward here and get a few points heading into the Christmas break,” said centre Aaron Gagnon, who is still without a point through 18 games, although he may have been the best IceCap player on the ice Wednesday night.
Joining the IceCaps on the road will be forwards Ray Kaunisto and Ryan Schnell, who have been recalled from Colorado of the ECHL.
After Shawn Weller broke a finger in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Hershey at Mile One, he became the 10th St. John's player to find himself on the injury roll and meant the Icecaps were left with just 11 healthy forwards among 18 healthy bodies for the rematch. As a result, the IceCaps used seven rearguards Wednesday, including Cody Sol, making his regular-season debut for St. John's.