Maybe it’s the change of scenery, or the pampering of turned-down bed sheets topped with a mint chocolate hotels offer their guests.
Or maybe it boils down the simple fact the St. John’s IceCaps are getting back to the simple basics.
Either way, the team which limped away from Mile One Centre on a five-game losing skid is on a modest two-game win streak, having posted 3-2 and 4-0 victories over the Springfield Falcons and Providence Bruins Saturday and Sunday in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We can’t have nights where you don’t have everyone working off the same page,” coach Keith McCambridge said following the win over Providence Sunday evening. “We have to be a hard-working team regardless of our injury situation.
“Everyone has to be going every night ... we have to have that compete level every night, from all four lines and all six defencemen.”
Sunday, Mark Dekanich stopped 40 shots and Paul Postma had a goal and an assist as the IceCaps improved to 13-14-0-1 on the year. However, the IceCaps still find themselves last in the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division, and 11th overall in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Prior to hitting the road for this latest trip — one that continues Wednesday in Glens Falls, N.Y. against the Adirondack Phantoms, and Friday and Saturday in Hamilton, Ont. and Toronto — St. John’s had lost five in a row, dating back to the first of the month in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., and a pair of two-game homestands against the Falcons and Hershey Bears.
While disappointed with the outcomes against Springfield and the first game against Hershey, McCambridge was not able to stomach a 4-0 loss to the Bears last Wednesday at Mile One.
“That was unacceptable,” he said.
“When you want to dig out of a slump, you need good goaltending, and the work ethic has to be in place.
“I liked our two games this weekend.”
Dekanich certainly provided quality netminding Sunday with a first-star performance. Saturday, Eddie Pasquale made 21 saves as the IceCaps downed the Falcons on Ivan Telegin’s goal 56 seconds into overtime.
“Deks made some huge saves,” McCambridge said. “We haven’t given him much run support of late, but tonight he got that and he was rock solid for us.”
Aaron Gagnon, with his first of the year, Paul Postma, Spencer Machacek and Jason Gregoire scored for the IceCaps Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Centre.
Postma and Machacek connected on the power play, giving St. John’s four goals with the extra man on the weekend. On the flip side, the IceCaps did not allow a tally on seven opposition power plays.
“Our special teams,” noted McCambridge, “operated at a good level.”
Sunday’s game marked the return of captain Jason Jaffray from a shoulder injury which kept him on the sidelines for five games.
Jaffray didn’t figure in the scoring, but was plus-one with two shots on goal.
“He had an impact on the game, without a doubt,” McCambridge said.
“You always know what you’re getting when Jason Jaffray comes to play, and that’s a good, honest effort.
“When he’s not in the lineup, he’s tough to replace. It’s nice to see No. 15 back on the ice.”
The return of Jaffray leaves the IceCaps nursing nine injuries. Of the nine, only Patrice Cormier is accompanying the team, but McCambridge says not to expect the robust forward back in the lineup until after Christmas.
Jason King and Hunter Tremblay (both concussion-like symptoms), Alexander Burmistrov (shoulder), John Albert (back), Eric O’Dell (ankle) and Travis Ramsey, Julian Melchiori and Shawn Weller (broken fingers) are not travelling.
McCambridge liked the play of most-recent ECHL call-ups Ryan Schnell (“he gives us that tough, physical element”) and Ray Kaunisto over the weekend, and in particular Kael Mouillierat, who has a goal and two assists in the six games since he was summoned from the ECHL with Weller.
“He has a real high hockey IQ,” said the IceCaps’ coach. “And he’s very versatile.
“He’s made a strong impression.”
Saturday at the MassMutual Centre, the Falcons forced an extra period when Ryan Johansen scored with 28 seconds left in regulation time.
That set the stage for Telegin, who teamed with Ben Chiarot for his third goal of the season.
Machacek and Ray Sawada also scored for St. John’s. Sean Collins had the other Springfield goal.