St. John's IceCaps fans are all too familiar with the pattern: IceCaps win the first game of a two-game series against an opponent at Mile One. Opponent responds with heightened effort and more resolve in rematch. IceCaps don't counteract in kind. Team and fans forced to settle for an unsatisfying split.
The IceCaps continued with in that same ol' 1-2 step this weekend, this time with the Albany Devils as the dance partner. St. John's won in an extended twirl Friday, prevailing 4-3 in a shootout. The Devils got their due on Saturday in a 5-3 win in a game in which Albany never trailed after getting the opening goal five minutes after the opening face-off.
That makes it four times in four two-game home series this season that the IceCaps have experienced a similar win-loss result.
On Saturday, Darcy Zajac scored twice and Devils' goaltender Jeff Frazee made 42 saves in a game whose score and shot count (45-33 in favour of St. John's) disguised the fact that St. John's never really seemed to be in reach of a point or two.
Even after the IceCaps' Jason Gregoire scored at 13:35 of the third to make it 5-3 or when the Devils were tagged with back-to-back minors in the last 100 seconds of the game, providing the home side with a two-man advantage, St. John's didn't seem to have the momentum for a comeback.
The latter sequence of penalty calls against Albany, combined with IceCaps' goalie Mark Dekanich being pulled for an extra attacker, led to a situation where St. John's had six skaters to three for Albany, but even though they managed a series of shots on Frazee, the IceCaps never displayed the combination of urgency or accuracy required in such desperate circumstances.
“We needed that for the full game, from the start right to the finish,” said St. John's head coach Keith McCambridge. “The game was out of reach by then. By that point, trying to score six-on-three and you still can’t get it in the back of the net … that’s exactly the way the guys performed tonight.”
St. John's would officially finish the night zero-for-eight on the power play, leaving them on a two-for-53 streak in man-advantage opportunities. But McCambridge said his team's shortcomings extend beyond its power-play woes.
“It looked like we were playing with a tennis ball and they were playing with a hockey puck out there,” the IceCaps coach told reporters. “It’s not even close to good enough for me right now.”
Ivan Telegin and Maxime Macenauer had the other goals for St. John's which saw its record fall below .500 to 7-8 heading into games against the Hamilton Bulldogs Tuesday and Wednesday at Mile One.
Albany (4-5-4) got the rest of its scoring from NHL-experienced players Adam Lasson, Jacob Josefson and Bobby Butler.
Adam Henrique of Albany and Jason Jaffray of St. John's each had two assists.