The St. John’s IceCaps arrived home Sunday a few hours late and a couple of defenceman short.
The IceCaps, who finished up a six-game road trip with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Hershey Bears in American Hockey League action Saturday night, already knew they were in for a lengthy travel day Sunday, going from Philadelphia to Toronto, then on to St. John’s, with a substantial layover at Pearson International Airport in between.
But some mechanical issues with the aircraft on both legs of the trip meant the IceCaps’ long day became a little bit longer; they didn’t get back to St. John’s until Sunday night.
As for the shortfall on the blueline, the parent Winnipeg Jets recalled two defencemen — Ben Chiarot and Zach Redmond — from the IceCaps Sunday. The Jets, who are on western road trip and have games in Anaheim tonight and Phoenix Tuesday, lost rearguard Keaton Ellerby to an unspecified injury in a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. With Zach Bogosian already hurt, Grant Clitsome out for the season after back surgery and Dustin Byfuglien having been moved to forward, Ellerby’s injury left Winnipeg with just five healthy defencemen as it prepared for a stretch of three games in four days (the Jets have a home game against Pittsburgh on Thursday).
There were officially three recalls from St. John’s Sunday as it was also announced that goaltender Michael Hutchinson being promoted.
Truth is, Hutchinson was already with the Jets in southern California.
Hutchinson had been on the Winnipeg roster for a week because of an injury to Ondrej Pavelec, but when Pavelec returned to action for Saturday’s game against the Kings, the emergency conditions that led to the recall had ended and rules required that Hutchinson be placed back with St. John’s, at least on paper.
However, as happened earlier this month when centre Patrice Cormier was demoted and promoted again within 24 hours, but never left Winnipeg, the Jets didn’t ship Hutchinson east immediately. And as was the case with Cormier, that just-in-case attitude appears to have been warranted; the re-recall of Hutchinson would suggest an injury issue with either Pavelec — who got the hook after the first period Saturday — or Al Montoya, although there was nothing in the way of details from the Jets on Sunday, a day off for the team.
Winnipeg reporters were told coach Paul Maurice would provide more information today.
The IceCaps don’t play again until Friday, when they open a six-game homestand against the Springfield Falcons, and they have to be hoping they’ll find a way to reinvigorate their offence at Mile One Centre.
After opening the just-completed road trip with three straight wins, St. John’s lost three in a row, scoring only four goals in that stretch. Besides Saturday’s 2-1 shootout setback in Hershey, the IceCaps lost 2-1 to the Binghamton Senators in regulation Friday and 3-2 to the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday.
The three-game struggle to score came after the IceCaps had registered 28 goals in their six previous contests, all wins. It also wasted solid netminding by Tyler Beskorowany, who allowed just six goals over nine periods, plus an overtime frame, in the three losses, while posting a .944 save percentage.
A St. John’s power play that isn’t clicking right now isn’t helping. It went zero-for-12 in the three defeats. That includes two chances that provided golden opportunities for a big win Sunday, one that came in the last three minutes of regulation and another that was awarded in overtime. In both cases, the IceCaps came close to scoring — with couple of shots hitting the goalpost — but nothing more.
The magic number for the IceCaps to clinch a playoff spot now stands at seven. That number is based on points St. John’s picks up over its remaining eight regular-season games, added to available points that aren’t earned by the ninth-place team in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, which as of today is Hershey … The recalls of Ben Chiarot and Zach Redmond (they flew to California from Philadelphia) leave St. John’s with six defenceman, but the IceCaps are expected to add a blue-chip blueliner in the near future. As of Sunday, there was still no official announcement from the Jets, but defenceman Josh Morrissey, the Jets’ first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to report to St. John’s this week, perhaps as early as today. Morrissey, a finalist for the Western Hockey League’s defenceman of the year award, had his junior season end when the Prince Albert Raiders were swept by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the opening round of the WHL playoffs … Morrissey isn’t the only Jets prospect to have his junior season come to an end last week. Goaltender Eric Comrie of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans and and forward Jimmy Lodge of the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit both saw their teams knocked out in the first round of the postseason … Meanwhile, forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas had his university hockey career finish over the weekend when Quinnipiac University lost 4-0 to Providence in the NCAA East Regionals. Samuels-Thomas was a draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers two years before the Thrashers’ franchise relocated to Winnipeg …