IceCaps hope roadwork pays off at home

Robin Short
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St. John’s kicks off four-game stint at Mile One with first of two against Penguins tonight

Don’t look now, but the St. John’s IceCaps, who have lost only three regulation games in their last 10 starts, are creeping up the Eastern Conference standings, with a chance to gain more ground starting tonight when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins drop by Mile One Centre for a pair of American Hockey League games.

The St. John’s IceCaps will start Eddie Pasquale between the pipes tonight when they welcome the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to Mile One Centre for the first of two games this weekend. Game time is 7:30. p.m.

The IceCaps are 5-3-0-2 in their last 10, including a 4-2 record on their most recent road trip. That included a split against the Penguins at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, when St. John’s registered a 2-1 win in the first game before allowing five third-period goals in a 5-2 loss in the second.

“We’re playing harder, we’re playing for each other and we’re finding ways to win,” said centre Eric O’Dell, who leads the IceCaps with 10 goals and 12 assists, good enough for a tie for 11th place in overall league scoring.

So what’s been the difference in the IceCaps today vs the IceCaps of even two or three weeks ago?

“I would say the difference is we’re just doing the finer things with our game, but we’re being rewarded for it,” coach Keith McCambridge said. “The games we played here before we left, those shootout losses, they could have went either way.

“You have to give the other team credit, but we were right there.”

McCambridge was referring to a pair of setbacks via the shootout to the Worcester Sharks at Mile One in the last home-ice series before St. John’s hit the road.

Then there was the loss in Wilkes-Barre, when the Pens popped in three straight goals in the last four minutes of the third period after the IceCaps had tied the game 2-2. And the game in Syracuse, N.Y. last Friday night when the Crunch scored twice in the last five minutes of regulation time, breaking a 2-2 tie.

“We were right there,” McCambridge reiterated. “The difference is having a little bit more puck luck, and fine tuning a little more the details of our game.”

Now the IceCaps are home for four games — the Crunch are in town next Tuesday and Wednesday — where St. John’s has struggled. The IceCaps are 4-2-1-2 on home ice this season.

“It’s always tough to get road wins, but we’re getting them,” O’Dell said. “Now we have to get the fans going here, which makes things a lot easier. And to get the fans going, we have to win.”

“We talked about this,” McCambridge said, “since the start of the year, about making this a hard building to play in, and making sure we’re feeding off the intensity of our fans.

“For us right now, it’s about finding consistency with the ability and mindset of stringing together some consecutive wins.

“We’ve been right there … the Hershey game we came out good, and we had a chance in the Syracuse game. But again, we let it slip away from us.

“Now we need to start putting teams away.”

Eddie Pasquale (9-8-1), the busiest goalie in the AHL with the most minutes played, and second overall to Norfolk’s John Gibson in saves, gets the start in goal tonight for St. John’s.

With John Albert still in Winnipeg, McCambridge has only 12 forwards at his disposal. It’s a different story on the blueline where the IceCaps currently have nine defencemen.

Will O’Neill has not dressed in six games, and Travis Ehrhardt has sat the last two.

Organizations: IceCaps, Penguins, Mohegan Sun Arena

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse Norfolk Winnipeg

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