The St. John’s IceCaps weren’t able to change their position in the standings during an eight-game road trip that concluded with a 4-2 loss to the Binghamton Senators on New Year’s Eve, but they did do enough to stay within hailing distance of a playoff spot in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The IceCaps went 4-4 on a trip that began Dec. 15 and was split up by a four-day Christmas break. That leaves St. John’s with a 15-18-1 record and in last place in the Atlantic Division, which is where it was in mid-December. However, the IceCaps are only three points out of a playoff spot as they prepare for a four-game home stand that begins with match-ups against the Manchester Monarchs Friday and Saturday at Mile One Centre.
The Monarchs (14-15-4) are a point ahead of St. John’s in the division, which is topped by the Portland Pirates (18-11-2, 38 points)
The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. The Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins, one of the teams St. John’s defeated on its recent road trip, are tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 34 points each.
Senators 4, IceCaps 2
Monday night in Binghamton, N.Y., the Senators (19-7-3) scored four unanswered goals to get the win.
Max Macenauer gave the IceCaps a 1-0 lead with a five-on-three power-play tally at 12:13 in the first period, and the visitors looked to have gone up 2-0 five minutes later when Ben Maxwell fired a shot past Sens’ goalie Ben Bishop during yet another St. John’s power-play.
But that was actually the point where things turned in the home side’s favour.
Ten second earlier in the play, as the IceCaps were taking the puck up the ice, it appeared the Senators’ Corey Cowick took a stick to his face. Although referee Terry Koharski apparently didn’t witnessed an infraction — he hadn’t whistled the play down — a subsequent discussion with the two linesmen led to Maxwell’s goal being called back and a four-minute high-sticking minor being assessed to St. John’s defenceman Derek Meech. What’s more, the IceCaps’ vehement protests over the decision led to Kael Mouillierat being tagged with an unsportsmanlike minor.
Exactly two minutes later and with just over 50 seconds remaining in the opening period, Binghamton’s Mike Hoffman scored a power-play marker to tie the game.
The score remained 1-1 until seven minutes into the third when Shane Prince put Binghamton up 2-1. Derek Grant scored what would be the eventual game-winner with a shorthanded effort three minutes later and Mark Stone later rounded out the scoring for the Senators with an empty-netter.
The IceCaps had the game’s last goal when Paul Postma — who had drawn an assist on Macenauer’s tally — blasted a shot past Bishop just a second before the final buzzer.
Bishop finished with 29 saves, while Eddie Pasquale faced 27 shots in the St. John’s net.
The result secured Binghamton head coach Luke Richardson a spot behind the bench for the Eastern Conference bench at the AHL All-Star Game later this month in Providence. The Senators are fourth in the conference standings four points behind the first-place Syracuse Crunch, but the All-Star coaching gig goes to bench boss of the team with the best winning percentage as of Jan. 1, and that happens to be Binghamton, which has played three fewer games than Syracuse.