By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor-Cedar Park, Tex.
The St. John’s IceCaps have not played the Texas Stars this season – heck, this Texas Two Step in the Calder Cup final is the first time the teams have ever met – but that’s not to say the Stars are foreign to the IceCaps.
Game 1 of the American Hockey League’s championship series between St. John’s and the Stars kicks off 10 p.m. Sunday night (NL time) about 20 minutes outside Austin, Tex.
The IceCaps won the Eastern Conference title, while the Stars copped the AHL’s Western Conference crown last week, beating the Toronto Marlies in a seven-game series.
The Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs are the only Western Conference teams the IceCaps have faced this season.
In Texas, St. John’s is up against the best team in the AHL this season as the Stars compiled a 48-18-10 record. Like the IceCaps, the Stars are 11-5 in the playoffs.
Even though the teams have not met, the IceCaps are familiar with the Stars through the work of Winnipeg scouts and video, over which the St. John’s coaching staff headed up by Keith McCambridge has scoured.
So the IceCaps, in other words, are all too familiar with the Stars’ Travis Morin, the AHL’s scoring leader and MVP this season, and league rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie.
And goalie Cristopher Nilstorp, who has carried the load since prospect Jack Campbell was felled by injury.
However, while the IceCaps seem to know much about the Stars – and vice versa, one can be sure – McCambridge cautions that he won’t put his players on information overload.
“It’s a fine line between giving the players too much information, and just the right amount, we believe.
“You don’t want to give them too much information because I strongly believe you freeze athletes if you do so.
“We have a lot of information gathered on Texas as a coaching staff and we’ve relayed what we feel the players need necessary to have success.”
In terms of playoff comparisons, the IceCaps and Stars are even-steven in wins and losses, but the IceCaps have a slightly better power play, 14-for-83 vs 13-for-78 for the Stars. The IceCaps’ penalty kill is a bit better, clicking at a 91 per cent success rate vs 82 per cent for Texas.
As for goals for and against, St. John’s has scored 47 and allowed 28, while Texas has scored 53 and given up 39.
“Obviously, there are areas we feel that we have to be aware of, and can possibly exploit, is something we touched on this morning in our meeting,” McCambridge said of the Stars.
“But we also we realize we’re in the fourth round of the Calder Cup playoffs, and we got here for a reason and that’s playing our game.”
Game 1 and 2 of the series in Texas will be broadcast on Super Sports Pak channel 471, which will be in ‘free mode’ to enable Rogers Cable customers with a digital box in Newfoundland.
IceCaps’ home games will continue to be available on Rogers TV (Channel 9) throughout Newfoundland.
The IceCaps are without J.C. Lipon in Texas. Lipon, who was injured in practice last week and was on crutches, is listed as day-to-day. Cody Lampl, who has not seen any playoff action, is also sidelined and listed as week-to-week.