By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor
Eddie Pasquale stopped 30 of 31 shots, and the St. John’s IceCaps got goals from three different players to hand the Portland Pirates a 3-1 setback in American Hockey League play Sunday afternoon at Mile One Centre.
It was the third straight win on home ice for the IceCaps, and fourth in five games.
The game was played before an announced sellout crowd of 6,287, although there were many empty seats at Mile One as residents on the Avalon dealt with after-effects of the nasty weather system that hit the province Saturday night.
The Pirates arrived in St. John’s early Sunday morning after flying in from Halifax. A bus ride from Maine took 10 hours, and included a delay at the Canadian border and another caused by a mechanical failure on the vehicle.
Rookies Adam Lowry and Brenden Kichton, along with veteran Jerome Samson, scored for the IceCaps, and J.C. Lipon, another first-year IceCap, collected two assists. Andy Miele had the only Portland goal.
Pasquale, who picked up his 13th win, was particularly sharp in the first period when the visitors outshot their guests 13-10.
“He played great,” the IceCaps’ Kyle MacKinnon said of Pasquale, the game’s first star. “We gave up a little too much, especially to their top players, but he was there with some big stops when we needed them.”
The decision to go ahead with Sunday’s game upset some, especially those still without power.
In a news release, St. John’s Sports and Entertainment chairman Steve Sparkes said, “We have an obligation to our major tenant, the St. John’s IceCaps, as well as the Portland Pirates and the American Hockey League, in general, to make this game happen.
“There are significant financial and contractual implications to be considered whenever a game is cancelled or postponed, and we have already rescheduled Saturday’s game to Monday. Regarding Sunday’s game, we feel our decision was in the best interests of SJSE, the IceCaps, the fans and the league.”
In addition to that, there was no place in the schedule the game could have been rescheduled. The Pirates are back in town March 12, 14 and 15, but Mile One is unavailable on the 13th because of a concert.
If all this snow is grating the nerves of most residents, imagine how MacKinnon feels. The 26-year-old forward was born and raised in Walnut, California, 30 minutes outside L.A., where he lives during the off-season.
MacKinnon played two years of junior hockey in B.C., four years of college hockey in Providence, R.I. followed by another three years of pro hockey in Providence.
So he is used to snow. Just not this much.
“It’s been pretty interesting, I guess you could say,” he grinned. “Coming in here, I knew you guys had some sort of winter, but I didn’t think it would be anything like this.
“Luckily, a couple of the guys live nearby and I’m not the one doing the driving,” said MacKinnon, who has gone 24 hours without power at his home.
Lowry gave the IceCaps a 1-0 lead 1:03 into the second period, and Kichton scored what would be the game-winner at the 2:51 mark of the third, one-timing a nice cross-ice pass from Lipon past Mark Visentin, who turned in a second-star performance with 37 saves.
Miele breathed new life into the Pirates at 12:40 of the third period, but Samson netted the insurance goal just over two minutes later, blocking a shot and then dashing in alone on Visentin, beating the Portland goalie between the legs.
The teams meet again 7:30 tonight, followed by a third game 7:30 Wednesday evening.