By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor
Playing their third game in three days — a 3:05 p.m. start, no less — and coming off a disheartening 5-2 loss the previous night in a game that saw the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins score five times in the third period, Keith McCambridge had reason to feel concerned about his St. John’s IceCaps Sunday afternoon in Bridgeport, Conn.
Turns out the IceCaps coach had no reason to worry, after all.
Eric O’Dell’s power play goal at 15:11 of the third period made a winner of Jussi Olkinuora for the first time in his pro career as the IceCaps got by the Sound Tigers 4-3 Sunday at the Webster Bank Arena in downtown Bridgeport.
The win improved the IceCaps to 9-8-1-2, with three games left on this six-game road swing.
“I was concerned after Saturday’s game, given how hard we played, to not come away with a win,” McCambridge said of his IceCaps, who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Penguins in a game in which the visitors scored the first goal and tied things 2-2 before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton put it away with three unanswered goals.
“Wilkes-Barre is an excellent team, and if we play that way again, nine out of 10 times we’re going to get the win.
“Today,” he said, “it wasn’t until the second or third period that we got skating and that power play goal (by O’Dell) was the key goal we needed. The work ethic and will to win was there tonight.”
Kael Mouillierat, Andrew Gordon and red-hot Jerome Samson also scored for St. John’s. Samson has five goals and two assists in the eight games he’s appeared in since missing seven games to injury.
Johan Sundstrom, Anders Lee and Calvin de Haan scored for Bridgeport.
Olkinuora faced only 22 shots, but was good enough to post his first professional win. The 23-year-old Finn played two seasons at the University of Denver before turning pro.
“He played well,” McCambridge said of his goalie. “He made some key saves in the third period, one that was a real difference-maker. You need that when the opposition is pressing hard.
“You can see he’s starting to build some confidence. That’s important for him, not only from an on-ice standpoint, but it also makes himself feel a part of the team,” said McCambridge, adding the team presented their rookie goalie with the game puck after the final whistle.
The Sound Tigers went up 2-0 on goals by Sundstrom and Lee, but the IceCaps responded with three straight goals by Gordon, Samson and Mouillierat, the latter two coming on the power play.
But Bridgeport wouldn’t quit, with de Haan teaming up with Sundstrom and Marc Cantin at 11:57 of the third period. That set the stage for O’Dell’s game-winner and team-leading 10th on the year.
St. John’s poured 29 shots on Sound Tigers goalie Parker Milner.
The IceCaps played the game without Zach Redmond, who was injured Saturday night. McCambridge lists Redmond as day to day, with a possibility of going Wednesday night in Hershey, Pa.
“He was real good Saturday,” McCambridge said of his all-star defenceman. “He was on the power play, playing five-on-five. He was strong for someone who has not played a lot of hockey.”
The IceCaps will head into New York City today, and will watch the parent Winnipeg Jets take on the New Jersey Devils tonight in nearby Newark, N.J.
“This is a reminder for some of the guys that they’re only one step away from the best hockey league in the world,” the coach said. “It’s a real good thing, for the young guys and the old guys, to watch the parent team.”
The IceCaps take on the Bears Wednesday night at Hershey’s Giant Centre, before closing out the trip next Friday and Saturday in Syracuse and Binghamton, N.Y.
“We want to build some consistency,” McCambridge said. “Get some consecutive wins.”