IceCaps headed home on a winning note

Brendan McCarthy
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St. John’s IceCaps netminder Eddie Pasquale stops a shot from Syracuse Crunch forward and former St. John’s Fog Devils player Maxime Langelier-Parent as ‘Caps rearguard Jordan Hill moves in on the play during the teams’ game Friday night in Syracuse, N.Y. St. John’s lost 4-2, but closed out its six-game road trip with a 4-3 shootout win over the Binghamton, N.Y. Senators Saturday night.

St. John’s finishes road trip with come-from-behind win over Binghamton Senators

Sometimes, it turns out the harder wins can make things easier, and that might turn out to be the case for the St. John’s IceCaps, who finished up a six-game, 11-game road trip with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Binghamton Senators Saturday night.

Sure, the IceCaps (11-9-3), who were playing their third road game in four days, might have appreciated a wide-margin, less-taxing decision instead of having to go the maximum distance in a contest that saw them have to come from behind three times to even the score, including with 28 seconds left in regulation when Carl Klingberg tallied with the St. John’s net empty for an extra attacker.

However, their first shootout win of the season should be a bit of springboard for the IceCaps entering December and the middle third of the American Hockey League season, and according to head coach Keith McCambridge, it helps define his roster.

“What I take from it is that it put that extra stamp on this team, showing the character that’s on it and proving that there is a lot of will to win here,” said McCambridge Sunday from Pearson Airport in Toronto just before the IceCaps boarded a flight for St. John’s.

“We were very disappointed with how things went in Syracuse (Friday night in a 4-2 loss to the Crunch), but I could see right from the start of (Saturday’s) game how determined the guys were to get a better result and they showed that all the way through. There is a lot hockey left to be played this season and that’s exactly the kind of attitude we’re going to need.”

For McCambridge, who doesn’t wax and wane very much when it comes to praise or criticism of his club, that can be seen as more observation than enthusiasm. He also used the oft-heard phrases about “staying in a good mindset” and “building off” the road trip, which saw the IceCaps win four of six games.

More than anything, he addressed the need for consistency and in this case, that’s far from a throwaway phrase. While the IceCaps’ have been better than average of late, taking points from seven of their last 10 games, they have yet to win more than two in a row this season and the most recent interspacing losses — two shootout setbacks at home to Worcester; Friday’s defeat in Syracuse, where the Crunch scored twice, including an-empty-netter, in the last four-and-half minutes; and a 5-2 loss in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as the Penguins scored five unanswered goals in the third period — stick in his craw.

“It’s the little details we’re still working on, the little things that make a big difference between those kinds of losses and wins,” said McCambridge. “We’re getting there, but we have a ways to go.”

Some of the progress that is being made can be measured by special teams stats. St. John’s went nine-for-36 (25 per cent success rate) on the power play over the road trip, while the penalty kill held the opposition to just four goals in 26 opportunities.

Some of it is shown in individual performances.

Jerome Samson, who scored in regulation and got the shootout winner against the Senators, has six goals in his last eight games and that’s important given how teams have started focusing defensively on the IceCaps’ top line and leading scorer Eric O’Dell. Backup goalie Jussi Olkinuora won twice on the road trip, including Saturday night in Binghamton as he made 36 saves and stopped four of five in the shootout.

And Klingberg, who was a healthy scratch for more than a few games at the start of the season and has seen a lot of time on the fourth line when he has dressed, has picked up his play. On Saturday, he was used on the point on the second-unit power play and got the ultimate compliment from his coach when he was put on the ice with the game on the line in the final minute of the third, then reciprocated with a big goal.

“He’s just playing better,” McCambridge said of Klingberg, “and if he keeps playing at that level, he’s going to get those sorts of opportunities. If he doesn’t, someone else is going to get the chance. It’s that simple.”

After a busy travel day Sunday — the IceCaps' bus from Binghamton arrived in Toronto at 4:30 a.m. — the team gets a welcome day off today and then begins to get ready for a four-game homestand, their last of 2013, beginning with games against the Penguins Friday and Saturday at Mile One Centre.

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, Pearson Airport Penguins

Geographic location: Toronto, Syracuse, Binghamton Worcester Wilkes-Barre

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