St. John’s on longest winning streak of season with 3-1 win over Providence
We’re about 12 weeks away from the start of the Calder Cup playoffs, and there is certainly no guarantee the St. John’s IceCaps will be part of the American Hockey League’s post-season dance, but on Sunday afternoon in Providence, R.I., in a playoff-style game against a divisional rival and, with much on the line — including positioning in the standings — the IceCaps showed themselves up to the challenge, defeating the Providence Bruins 3-1.
It was a season-high fourth straight win for St. John’s.
Rookie defenceman Brenden Kichton scored once and assisted on the other two goals — by Andrew Gordon and team captain Jason Jafrray — for the IceCaps (24-16-3), who moved into seventh place in the AHL's Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the P-Bruins and the Hershey Bears, who are on their own hot streak, having won five straight.
The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
“There was intensity from the start to the finish. This was a game that was played with speed and contact from the first period to the third,” said IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge about Sunday’s matchup, which drew almost 10,000 fans to the Dunkin Donuts Centre in Providence.
“There is a lot of season left to be analyzed, but just looking at this game, yes, it was very key win for us, given the team we were playing, what was on the line and because it was played with such energy.
“These are the kinds of games you really want to win.”
St. John's got a superlative performance from its special teams, killing off all seven Bruins power plays and scoring on two of their own. What's more, Jaffray's goal came just four seconds after the expiration of a Providence penalty.
“Special teams are always important and that certainly was the case today,” said McCambridge, who was especially pleased his penalty-killers pitched a shutout, considering they had given up two power-play goals in a 6-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday.
“You never want to have to kill off seven power plays, but we did a great job with that today.”
Goalie Michael Hutchinson, who has played every minute of St. John’s’ four-game winning streak, made 34 saves.
Hutchinson’s and the IceCaps’ winning streak includes three wins over the weekend — 5-4 over Providence Friday, Saturday’s victory at Hartford and Sunday’s decision. However, McCambridge showed little concern that Hutchinson might be fatigued or that a fresh Eddie Pasquale would be a better option.
“I never asked (Hutchinson) about it. In fact, I don’t ever ask my goalies if they can handle it. I knew his history in Ontario (where he had started 28 of the Reign’s first 34 games) and he had played three-on-three weekends. Plus, his recent body of work for us had been good and he was on a streak,” said McCambridge, adding that he did also take into account that pride might be a factor; Hutchinson had spent three seasons in the Bruins’ organization, mostly in Providence, before being allowed to go into free agency over the summer.
Gordon opened the scoring Sunday with his team-leading 15th goal of the season at 4:31 of the second period. Matt Lindblad tied it for the P-Bruins (22-17-6) about five minutes later.
Kichton got the eventual game-winner on a power play four minutes into the third and Jaffray got the insurance tally midway through the final frame.
After their busy weekend, the IceCaps will enjoy a lengthy break in action before finishing off a five-game road trip with games Friday in Lewiston, Me., against the Portland Pirates, and Saturday in southern New Hampshire, where they’ll face the Manchester Monarchs.
Notes: With his three points, Kichton (8-27-35) moves into a tie with forward Kael Mouillierat (12-23-35) for the team scoring lead. Mouillierat was coming off a four-point, plus-five night in Hartford, where he had recorded the IceCaps’ first hat trick of the season, but he was held off the scoresheet Sunday ... With forward Carl Klingberg still feeling the effects of the stomach flu, the IceCaps used the same lineup that had been pencilled in for the game in Hartford. That meant the other scratches Sunday were defenceman Julian Melchiori and winger Josh Lunden, both injured, and rearguard Cody Sol … St. John’s defenceman Kris Fredheim went heavily into the end boards after getting tangled up with Providence forward Bobby Robins early in the third period. Fredheim left the game and did not return. McCambridge says the rearguard was scheduled to have X-rays on his shoulder. Robins got a two-minute tripping minor, but was asked for some immediate penance by IceCaps forward Blair Riley, who challenged the Bruins forward to what turned out to be a brief fight ... The Bruins outshot the IceCaps’ 35-20 … Sunday’s Molson Canadian three stars: 1. Kichton 2. Hutchinson 3. Linblad … St. John’s broadcaster Brian Rogers’ choice as the Mary Brown’s hardest-working IceCap: centre Patrice Cormier, who got a key face-off win that led to Kicton’s game-winning shot ...