The St. John's IceCaps had their much-lauded roster depth tested Friday and did not come up wanting as they doubled the Connecticut Whale 6-3 in Hartford to move into sole possession of first place in the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference.
Defenceman Arturs Kulda scored twice for St. John's, while rookie centre Eric O'Dell's first pro goal proved to be the game-winner for the IceCaps, who were dealing with the loss of three veteran rearguards on recall to the parent Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg has no fewer than five defencemen hurt or hobbled, the latest being Randy Jones, dinged up in the Jets' 3-0 win over the New York Islanders Thursday. He joins Derek Meech, Ron Hainsey, Tobias Enstrom, who broke his collarbone in a game in Florida earlier this week, and Mark Stuart as bruised and battered Jets blueliners. The situation necessitated the call-ups of Mark Flood and Brett Festerling from the IceCaps on Wednesday.
The IceCaps, in turn, have made their own call-ups, bringing in Kyle Bushee from the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and Jake Marto from the Colorado Eagles of the same league. Bushee, who attended the IceCaps' training camp on a tryout, was in the St. John's lineup Friday, while Marto, who is signed to an AHL contract by Winnipeg, is expected to join the Caps before their game against the AHL Sharks in Worcester tonight.
Besides Bushee, the other defencemen coming into the lineup Friday were rookie Ben Chiarot and Kulda, both healthy scratches Tuesday when the IceCaps - with Festerling, Flood and Kulda - defeated Worcester 6-3.
And Jason DeSantis, who had been a regular press-box resident before Tuesday but suddenly finds himself third or fourth on the St. John's defensive depth chart, had another strong game, picking up an assist and finishing plus-three on the night.
Rookie Carl Klingberg, with his team-leading seventh goal of the season, first star Shawn Weller and Spencer Machacek also scored for the IceCaps, who moved two points ahead of Connecticut (6-2-3), the Adirondack Phantoms and Norfolk Admirals in the tussle for first place in the Eastern Conference.
St. John's goaltender Eddie Pasquale, who earned his third win in as many starts this season, faced 19 shots.
John Mitchell and Kris Newbury, who both played for the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs, had two of the goals for the Whale, the farm team of the New York Rangers. Newbury and Ryan Bourque scored in the last minute of the second period to give Connecticut a 3-2 lead, but the IceCaps came up with four unanswered tallies, including an empty-netter by Kulda, in the final frame.
The result means St. John's has taken away points - with two wins and two overtime losses - from the first four games of a six-game New England road swing that continues in Worcester tonight and concludes Sunday afternoon with a game against the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport, Conn.
O'Dell came into the St. John's lineup to replace injured veteran Garth Murray, who was hurt in Tuesday's win over the Sharks. For O'Dell and Chiarot, Friday marked only the second time they've dressed for a game this season ...St. John's centre Marco Rosa, with two assists, was the second star Friday, while Kulda got the nod from St. John's broadcaster Brian Rogers as the IceCaps' hardest-working player ... The Jets have placed forward Kenndal McArdle on waivers and reportedly will assign him to St. John's if he clears. With Stuart and Jones day-to-day and not on injured reserve, the Jets might have been looking to clear a roster spot for Postma. But if they put Enstrom on IR, it might signal another roster move is forthcoming.
IceCaps 6 at Whale 3
Friday at Hartford, Conn.
1, Connecticut, Mitchell 4 (Zuccarello, Audy-Marchessault), 4:03
2, St. John's, Klingberg 7 (Gagnon, Rosa),13:58
3, St. John's, Weller 2 (DeSantis, Rosa),19:18 (PP)
4, Connecticut, Newbury 5 (Tessier, Hagelin), 19:19
5, Connecticut, Bourque 1 (Tessier, Valentenko), 19:38
6, St. John's, Machacek 2 (Jaffray, Holzapfel), 6:02
7, St. John's, O'Dell 1 (Clark, Albert), 9:40
8, St. John's, Kulda 1 (Weller, Chiarot), 10:18
9, St. John's, Kulda 2 18:32 (EN)
Penalties-O'Dell Stj (interference), 12:08.
Shots on goal
St. John's 12-7-9-28. Connecticut 8-6-5-19.
St. John's 1-2; Connecticut 0-3.
Goalies-St. John's, Pasquale 3-0-0 (19 shots-16 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 3-1-2 (27 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Geno Binda (22), Ryan Hersey (46).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Luke Galvin (2).