Not that he needed it, but St. John’s IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge has received an early reminder of the wisdom and verity of the old saying, “you can never have enough defencemen.”
Zack O’Brien of St. John’s, who is attending the St. John’s IceCaps’ training camp on a tryout, will play his second straight AHL exhibition game today against the Syracuse Crunch. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
The IceCaps have 11 rearguards on their training camp roster, but that number has been whittled way by some day-to-day injuries, meaning McCambridge and his coaching staff have had to some tweaking in advance of this evening’s American Hockey League preseason game against the Syracuse Crunch at the Clarenville Events Centre (5 p.m. start).
Blueliners Kris Fredheim and Julian Melchiori did not play Thursday night at Mile One Centre as Syracuse defeated St. John’s 5-2 in the opener of the three-game Mary’s Cup tournament, and they won’t be available for today’s contest in Clarenville.
Neither will tryout defenceman Travis Ehrhardt, who was hurt in Thursday’s game.
“We’ve have to make some adjustments on the back end with some players playing back-to-back games where we didn’t really have it planned that way,” said McCambridge.
But as the third-year coach has reiterated over the last week, training camp, with its scrimmages and these exhibition games, is a chance to impress, if not for an immediate roster berth, perhaps one later in the season on a recall.
Therefore, the unavailability of others could provide more of a chance for such impression by the likes of tryout rearguards Zach Bell and Cody Lampl.
Circumstances can also generate in-game opportunity, as it did Thursday for big Cody Sol.
With Ehrhardt hurt and Will O’Neill in the penalty box serving a fighting major and minor, Sol was tasked for some work on the power play. He didn’t look that out of place, even registering a goal, coming down off the blueline to take a pass from Kael Mouillierat and beating Crunch net minder Riku Helenius.
It’s not that the 6-6 Sol would normally be a first, or even second option on the power play, but his play on the PP Thursday did demonstrate some versatility that shouldn’t hurt in his effort to earn a full-time job with the IceCaps.
The 22-year-old Sol split last season between St. John’s and the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles, and is really only a second-year pro. But he is in also the last year of his entry-level deal with the parent Winnipeg Jets.
“I’m not young to a pro training camp anymore, that’s for sure,” said Sol, who actually made his AHL debut as an 18-year-old in 2010 when he appeared in one game for the Chicago Wolves.
“But I’m not a veteran, either. Last year, I was in and out of the lineup here, up and down between here and Colorado, so I guess maybe you can say I’m in the middle, looking for a solid spot here this year.”
Any assessment about Sol will always start with his height — that’s a given — and the native of Woodstock, Ont., understands.
“You can’t teach size. Everyone would love to me the size I am. But it’s all going to be about how I use that size,” said the 240-pounder, who spent the summer skating and training in London, Ont., with the likes of Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jarred Tinordi, Habs forward Brandon Prust and Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty.
He also worked hard at getting in even better shape.
“I got stronger. I got leaner. I want to use that size more and I want to be smarter using it,” he said. “We have are a lot of good D-men here. I’ll have to be my best in every way.”
While three or four defenceman who played Thursday will suit up in today’s game for St. John’s, there should be more extensive changes on the IceCaps’ forward lines. Set to play his first game for the IceCaps is Andrew Gordon, who has appeared in 55 NHL games, including a half-dozen with the Vancouver Canucks last season … Among the St. John’s forwards who played Thursday and will do so again tonight: tryout centre and St. John’s native Zach O’Brien … Jussi Olkinuora will get the start in goal for St. John’s this evening, with the plan being for him to be replaced after two periods by Adam Brown … Speaking of goalies, Syracuse’s Cedrick Desjardins required stitches to close a cut suffered after he took a puck off his mask Thursday on a wicked second-period snap shot by St. John’s forward Blair Riley … The Crunch were supposed to get in some outdoor paintball Friday, but wet weather led to cancellation of those plans. They went bowling instead … The Mary’s Cup wraps up Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Mile One. The pre-season contests are being broadcast on 930 CJYQ and online through the IceCaps’ website (stjohnsicecaps.com) ...