IceCaps clinch second seed in AHL's Eastern Conference
Eddie Paquale made 28 saves in a first-star performance as the St. John's IceCaps downed the Worcester Sharks 3-1 Friday night to clinch the second playoff seed in the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference.
Travis Ramsey, Jason King and John Albert, the latter into an empty net, had the goals for the IceCaps (43-23-8), who were beginning a three-game weekend road trip that closes out their regular-season schedule.
The IceCaps now know they will face the Eastern Conference's seventh seed in the opening round of the playoffs. St. John's win, plus other Friday-night results, has reduced the number of potential first-round opponents for from six to three — the Portland Pirates, Syracuse Crunch and Manchester Monarchs.
The Pirates, who defeated the Hershey Bears 6-4 Friday, now hold that seventh berth with 81 points, but have just one game left. The Crunch, who lost 5-1 to the Rochester Americans Friday, remain with 80 points and have dropped to eighth, while the Monarchs are in ninth at 79 points after a 5-4 shootout win over the Connecticut Whale.
Both the Crunch and Monarchs have two games left to play, with one of Manchester's coming Sunday against the visiting IceCaps.
St. John's is in Springfield to play the Falcons tonight. Springfield has already been eliminated from playoff contention, as have the Sharks, who got a goal from second-star Ben Guite and 25 saves from Hariri Sateri Friday ... The goal by King, Friday's third star, was the game-winner and his team-leading 22nd tally of the season ... Albert's goal extended the rookie forward's point-scoring streak to seven games ... Ben Maxwell and Aaron Gagnon each had two assists for St. John's ... Three IceCaps came off the injury list to play Friday, including forward Brock Trotter, making his first appearance for St. John's since being acquired in a trade last month; Marco Rosa, who hasn't played since before Christmas because of a concussion; and winger Ray Sawada ... Spencer Machacek suited up for the IceCaps for the first time since being returned by the parent Winnipeg Jets, but centre Patrice Cormier, also sent down by the Jets after their season finished, did not play because of the flu. That meant rookie Eric O'Dell found a place in the lineup ... The IceCaps' expanding roster grew by two more Friday, when defenceman Jake Marto and forward Joey Sides were added from the ECHL's Colorado Eagles. Marto, who is signed to an AHL contract with the IceCaps, was with St. John's for a couple of stints earlier this season. Sides, brought in on a professional tryout, had 29 points in as many games for the Eagles, who have been knocked out of the ECHL playoffs ... Single game tickets for IceCaps opening-round playoff home games go on sale at noon today at Mile One Centre. St. John's will begin its best-of-five first-round series on the road Friday, but the last three games of the series (the last two only if necessary) are set for Mile One, April 25, 27 and 28.... The AHL-leading Norfolk Admirals won their 26th straight game Friday, defeating the Albany Devils 5-1 ... How tight is it in the race for the last four playoff spots in the AHL's Western Conference? With two days left in the regular season, only three points separate the fifth- and 11th place teams, and in just one night, Lake Erie went from ninth to sixth and Peoria dropped from eighth to 11th ... Norfolk forward Cory Conacher has been named the AHL's most valuable player. Conacher, who is second in AHL scoring with 35 goals and 75 points, is only the fourth rookie in league history to be chosen as MVP and first in 23 years. This adds to what is already an amazing story for Conacher, a 22-year-old native of Burlington, Ont., who was undrafted out of relatively small Cansius College and is a Type 1 diabetic. He was signed to an AHL deal with Norfolk at the start of the season, but inked a two-year entry-level contract with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning six weeks ago ...
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