New goalie, same result

Robin
Robin Short
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IceCaps beat Thiessen and Admirals 5-3 for 2-1 AHL series lead

Norfolk, Va.—Brad Thiessen was a familiar foe Saturday night, and thankfully for the St. John’s IceCaps and their fans, it was a familiar result as the IceCaps skated to a 5-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals and grabbed a 2-1 lead in their American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinal.

Jerome Samson scored the game-winner nearly half-way through the third period as the IceCaps overcame a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes to take control of their second-round Calder Cup post season series.

Thiessen got the start in goal for the Admirals in Game 3 at The Scope Arena in Norfolk after starter John Gibson was recalled to the parent Anaheim Ducks for their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.

Gibson, who had been lights out through the AHL playoffs, posted a 2-0 win over the Kings Saturday in his first Stanley Cup playoff start.

In Thiessen, the IceCaps were facing a goalie well-known to them. Thiessen was the starter for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins two years ago when St. John’s dispatched that club in six games in the East semifinal playoffs.

“Anytime you’re playing hockey in May, all the goaltenders are real strong,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge. “You have to ensure you’re getting pucks to the net, but when you do get pucks to the net, there has to be traffic in front.

“Goaltenders are too good this time of year. Thiessen was all of that tonight, as Gibson was in Games 1 and 2.”

Gibson’s result Saturday night in Los Angeles likely means the highly-touted prospect from Pittsburgh will probably remain with the Ducks through their Stanley Cup playoffs, and that’s good news to the IceCaps.

In the AHL post season, Gibson sported a 1.45 goals against average and .955 save percentage.

“It looks like he’s the real deal,” McCambridge said of Gibson.

All that said, it appears the IceCaps are the real deal in these AHL playoffs.

After Eric O’Dell scored to give St. John’s a 1-0 lead just over half-way through the first period, the Admirals replied with back-to-back goals by Max Friberg and Jesse Blacker for a 2-1 lead, which stood through the second period.

But Josh Morrissey drew the IceCaps even only 39 seconds into the final frame, floating a wrist shot from the point that eluded Thiessen.

Ben Chiarot gave the IceCaps the lead again with a blast from the point, but Josh Manson tied things up again less than a minute later on a play the IceCaps argued, with merit, goalie Michael Hutchinson was knocked over by a Norfolk player before the puck went in the net.

That set the stage for Samson, who entered Saturday’s game scoreless through the playoffs.

“You’re always going to have ups and downs with goals during the season,” said Samson, who connected 27 times this year. “This is my seventh year, so I’m not too worried about that. I’ve been scoring every year, but I’m always going to have stretches where I’m not as productive.

“I think you get worried when you’re not even getting the chances. As a line (with Adam Lowry and J.C. Lipon), we’re getting Grade A chances every game. You know if you get your chances, the puck’s going to go in.”

“Jerome is really creative,” said McCambridge. “He was brought into this organization for a reason, because he’s gifted offensively.

“His makeup all season long was to score key goals and key moments of the game and that was obviously a real huge goal for us.”

Lowry also scored, icing the win with an empty-net goal with eight seconds left on the clock.

Game 4 is 8:45 p.m. (NL time) Monday night in Norfolk.

“In the playoffs, you try to win the odd number games – Games 1, 3, 5 and 7,” said Samson, a 26-year-old product from the Montreal suburbs. “They’re always big games, especially here with the 2-3-2 format (in the playoffs, with the first two games in St. John’s, and the next three in Norfolk.

“It was huge getting the first one of the way here. You want at least win two out of three going home with the chance to win the series.”

With the score tied, McCambridge began juggling some lines in the third period, moving Jason Jaffray with Eric O’Dell and Carl Klingberg, while Kael Mouillierat slipped in on the wing with John Albert and Andrew Gordon.

“Your best players have to be your best players this time of year, and I felt we were still generating chances from all of our lines,” the coach said. “We made a little line adjustment in third, looking for a little bit of a spark. And I think we got that.

“Sometimes when you all of a sudden have a different linemate, your awareness becomes all the more sharper. We built energy off that, and I felt our other two lines were real strong.”

 

NOTES

Emerson Etem, in his first game back with the Admirals since being reassigned from the Ducks, had an assist … Adam Lowry laid out a huge open-ice hit on Nic Kerdiles in the second period. The highly-touted Ducks prospect lay on the ice for several minutes before making his was to the dressing room. He returned for the third period … Lowry finished the game plus-two … Zach Redmond had two assists, and now has six helpers in seven playoff games … Attendance at The Scope, which seats 8,700 for hockey, was 3,957 … The three stars of the game were 1. Jerome Samson 2. Ben Chiarot 3. Josh Manson …

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, Los Angeles Kings

Geographic location: Norfolk, Norfolk, Va., Wilkes-Barre Los Angeles Pittsburgh Montreal

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