The St. John's IceCaps came up short by one victory of establishing a new American Hockey League record, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Toronto Marlies in a New Years Day matchup at Ricoh Coliseum yesterday.
The loss was only the IceCaps' first in regulation time in 15 games away from Mile One Centre this season.
Jussi Rynnas stopped 36 shots as the IceCaps' road record dropped to 12-1-2-1. A win Sunday would have tied St. John's with the 2010-11 Manchester Monarchs.
But all was not lost for the IceCaps in their three-game, post-Christmas tour of Southern Ontario. On New Years Eve, St. John's registered its first shootout win of the year with a 4-3 decision over the Marlies and, in doing so, gave coach Keith McCambridge a spot behind the Eastern Conference's bench in the annual AHL All-Star Classic later this month in Atlantic City, N.J.
Coaches of the Eastern and Western conference teams with the best winning percentage by Jan. 1 will guide their respective teams in the Classic slated for Jan. 29-30.
The IceCaps are actually second overall in the East, a point behind the Monarchs and Hershey Bears, but sport a conference-best .672 winning percentage from a 19-8-4-1 record.
Oklahoma City Barons coach Todd Nelson will guide the Western Conference all-stars.
Best home and away
The pair of games in Toronto offered a matchup of the league's best road team against the top club at home. Sunday's win improved the Marlies' record at Ricoh to 9-2-2-1.
Matt Caruana, Jerry D'Amigo and Ryan Hamilton, into an empty net with three seconds remaining, scored for Toronto. Aaron Gagnon had the lone IceCaps' goal.
The Marlies scored the only goal in the first period, despite being outshot 13-9, when Caruana beat Eddie Pasquale at the 8:23 mark.
It was the IceCaps again outshooting the Marlies in the second stanza, by a 12-76 margin, but Rynnas and Pasquale were up to the task, stopping all the shots they faced.
Up by two
Toronto grabbed a 2-0 lead on D'Amigo's goal at 10:41 of the third period, but Gagnon finally got the IceCaps on the board just over two minutes later, banging home a loose puck past Rynnas, making just his second start in 12 games.
It stayed that way until the dying seconds when Hamilton iced it for the Marlies.
Pasquale finished the evening with 18 saves.
The IceCaps won two of three games in Ontario since Christmas - they defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1 last Wednesday at Copps Coliseum - and return home to face the Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) Friday and Saturday at Mile One.
St. John's took a pair of games from Manchester earlier this season, picking up 1-0 and 4-1 victories at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
On Saturday, Gagnon, Jason King and Ben Maxwell scored in the shootout, and David Aebischer stopped three of four Toronto shooters for the win.
Paul Postma, Carl Klingberg, with his team-leading 11th goal, and Arturs Kulda scored for the IceCaps. Hamilton had a pair of goals for the Marlies, and Will Acton scored once.
Aebischer made 32 saves to improve to 8-3-1. The veteran from Switzerland appears to have taken over the IceCaps' No. 1 job with Peter Mannino's reassignment last week.