Derek Meech probably wasn’t thrilled with the reassignment, but Keith McCambridge was happy to be getting the veteran defenceman back in the St. John’s IceCaps’ fold over the weekend.
Meech, along with Spencer Machacek and Maxime Macenauer, were cut from the Winnipeg Jets last week and assigned to the American Hockey League IceCaps Friday.
None of the three were in the St. John’s lineup Friday night in Norfolk, Va., for a 3-2 shootout loss to the Admirals, but they dressed Saturday night and helped the IceCaps to a 1-0 victory in a Sunday rematch as Machacek scored the game’s only goal with an assist from Macenauer.
As for Meech, the 28-year-old, nine-year pro was a welcomed addition to a young IceCaps defence corps that included three rookies Will O’Neill, Julian Melchiori and Cody Sol) and a second-year pro (Ben Chiarot) in the lineup Friday.
“We were facing a desperate team, winless in seven (games) Friday and I think our inexperience on the back end was exposed,” coach McCambridge said of Friday’s loss, that saw the IceCaps cough up a two-goal lead.
“They had a hard time getting the puck out. They faced a lot of pressure and things were running real fast back there. Then, when you have someone like Meecher coming in, well, no matter what the level is, the balance of a veteran player and the poise he brings can’t be overstated.”
Meech, Machacek and Macenauer were among six IceCaps recalled to Winnipeg’s training camp last week, joining Alexander Burmistrov, Paul Postma and Zach Redmond.
The latter three stuck with the Jets, with Burmistrov and Postma dressing for the season-opener. Redmond was a healthy scratch.
The IceCaps took three of four points in Norfolk in the first two of a six-game road swing that continues tonight in Binghamton, N.Y., against the high-flying Senators.
Binghamton leads the AHL with a 25-9-1-3 record, but the AHL Senators suffered a big hit with the end of the lockout as three of the top five scorers — Jakob Silfverberg, Andre Benoit and Patrick Wiercioch — cracked the Ottawa Senators’ lineup, in addition to goaltenders Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop.
Saturday, Eddie Pasquale stopped 28 shots as the IceCaps improved to 17-20-1-2. The only goal came in the second period, just after a penalty to Nate Guenin expired. Macenauer fed a pass to Machacek at the right circle, and the leading scorer for St. John’s last season one-timed a shot past Viktor Fasth for his ninth goals.
The game followed Friday’s tilt that saw St. John’s jump out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Eric O’Dell and Richard Petiot. But the Admirals got a goal from Josh Brittain in the second period and the equalizer from Emerson Etem in the third forcing overtime.
Brittain scored the only goal in the shootout as O’Dell, Ben Maxwell, Carl Klingberg, Jason Jaffray and Kael Mouillierat failed to solve fasth. Pasquale finished the night with 32 saves.
“We played a smarter game Saturday,” McCambridge said. “We got pucks out, didn’t leave our zone too early, played a real consistent game.
“The finer points of our game were there.”
Friday’s game marked the return of John Albert, who missed 18 games with a back injury.