© Keith Gosse/The Telegram
St. John's Ice Caps goaltender Mark Dekanich(left) is congratulated by his teammates after the Ice Caps beat the Portland Pirates 3-2 Tuesday evening.
Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
St. John's IceCaps get the game-winning goal from Ray Sawada at 12:34 of the third period and a 30-save performance from goaltender Mark Dekanich to beat the Portland Pirates 3-2 in American Hockey League action at Mile One Centre Tuesday night.
Sawada registered his 12th goal of the season, deflecting a Travis Ramsey shot past Pirates' netminder Mark Visentin, putting St. John's back in front a little over two minutes after Brendan Shimminen of the visitors had tied the game 2-2 with a power-play marker.
Cody Sol of St. John's opened the scoring Tuesday, getting his first AHL goal 12 minutes into the game on a blast from the top of the faceoff circle. Portland netminder Mark Visentin got a piece of the shot, but the puck managed to get past Visentin and found its way over the goal line.
Forwards Matthew Kirzinger and Vinny Saponari drew assists on Sol's tally for their first pro points.
Josh Lunden of the IceCaps and Phil Lane of the Pirates exchanged second-period goals.
Eric O'Dell and Kael Mouillierat drew assists on Lunden's power-play goal. For O'Dell, it was his team-leading 51st point of the season, eclipsing the 50 points Spencer Machecek had to lead the IceCaps in 2011-12, their inaugural season.
Dekanich was the first star with 30 saves, two-thirds of them ranging from very good to highlight-reel quality. One of his better stops actually came late in the third period on teammate Dean Arsene, who mistakingly fired the puck on goal in an attempt to send it out of harm's way behind the net.
The IceCaps (30-34-6) maintain their thread-slim hopes for the playoffs — St. John's is just a couple of losses (or a couple of Hershey or Norfolk wins) away from being officially eliminated from the post-season. On the other side, it was a difficult result for the Pirates (38-27-5), who are still a few wins away from nailing down a playoff berth. Portland was sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference entering the game.
The Pirates' status is almost certainly a contributing factor to why Goulds native James Melindy did not play for Portland tonight. Teams battling for playoff position tend to stay with experience and Melindy, the 20-year-old defencman who was the Coyotes' third-round pick last year, has yet to play his first pro game since joining the Pirates.
When and if Melindy does play, he'll be wearing No. 27, the same number worn by St. John's native John Slaney during a professional career that spanned two decades. Slaney, who once played for Portland, is in his second season as a Pirates assistant coach.
With an injury list that always seems full — centre Patrice Cormier is the latest to join it — and without that playoff carrot, the IceCaps aren't hindered the same way roster-wise. Therefore, recent arrivals Adam Lowry, Saponari and Kirzinger were all in the St. John's lineup. For Kirzinger, who was playing in front of his parents visiting from Saskatchewan, it was his first game at MIle One.