Norfolk, Va.—In a critical Game 4 of the best-of-seven Calder Cup playoff series, the St. John’s IceCaps delivered a dominating performance led by a newly-united line of Eric O’Dell, Carl Klingberg and Jason Jaffray en route to a 5-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals Monday night.
That trio connected for seven points – led by Jaffray’s goal and two assists, O’Dell’s pair of goals and a single tally and an assist by Klingberg – as the IceCaps took a 3-1 stranglehold on the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinal.
St. John’s can now put the series to bed with a win tonight in Norfolk. If Games 6 and 7 are required, they will be played Friday and Saturday night at Mile One Centre.
“They’re probably thinking they don’t want to come back to St. John’s for that travel,” O’Dell said afterwards. “Every single game is huge… we say that every game, that each game is the biggest game.
“But this win was good to get, no doubt about it.”
In the third period of Saturday’s Game 3, 5-3 IceCaps win, St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge took Jaffray off John Albert’s and Andrew Gordon’s line and slotted him in with O’Dell and Klingberg. Conversely, Kael Mouillierat, who had been with O’Dell and Klingberg, was paired with Albert and Gordon.
It worked, judging by Monday’s result, although O’Dell cautions he’s willing to bet the Admirals’ spirit is not broken.
“I think they’re going to be fighting hard,” he said. “The start we have in the next game is going to be huge for us. If we can get a quick lead, they’re probably going to be out of the game, which we can take advantage of.
“But we’re not taking them lightly, and I don’t think they think they’re out of it. They’re going to be coming hard and we have to be prepared for it.”
At the 43-year-old Scope Arena, where the ice provided a challenge for both teams, thanks in part to 30 degree C weather outside, Jerome Samson also scored for the IceCaps, and Michael Hutchinson finished the night with 28 saves.
Rookie Josh Morrissey and his defence partner, Will O’Neill, both had two assists.
It only took the IceCaps just over four minutes into the first period to get on the scoreboard as Klingberg deflected a Morrissey shot from the point past Brad Thiessen, making his second start of the playoffs with John Gibson on recall to the parent Anaheim Ducks.
Morrissey, the talented 19-year-old defenceman, was in on the next goal, too, drawing an assist as Jaffray redirected O’Neill’s shot from the blueline.
For Morrissey, the assists were his fifth and sixth points in eight playoff games.
As for the power play, much maligned of late, the first period marked the fourth time in three games the IceCaps scored with the man advantage.
St. John’s was one-for-seven on the power play for the night.
Just as he had been through the post season, Hutchinson was brilliant through the opening 20 minutes, with 14 saves.
Samson, whose scoring had gone dry in the playoffs until netting the game-winner Saturday night, struck again Monday, 2:37 after the drop of the puck to start the second period. Then it was O’Dell’s turn to tally his second in as many games, teaming up with Jaffray and Klingberg 1:28 later.
Andre Petersson broke Hutchinson’s shutout bid when he broke down the right side and labelled a shot over Hutchinson’s shoulder, short side at the 8:36 mark.
O’Dell had the only goal of the third period.
That line swept the three stars of the game with O’Dell getting the No. 1 star, followed by Jaffray and Klingberg.