The St. John's IceCaps are feeling anything but at home at Mile One Centre these days.
The IceCaps (15-20-2) dropped a seventh straight decision at Mile One Saturday night, losing 6-2 to the Toronto Marlies.
Despite losing seven players this week to the parent Toronto Maple Leafs, the Marlies (22-10-3) still looked very much like a team that could stay atop the American Hockey League's Western Conference as they got goals from Keith Aucoin, Spencer Abbott, Greg Scott, Joe Colborne, Jerry D'Amigo and Carter Ashton.
Eric O'Dell had both goals for St. John's, which has lost six players to the parent Winnipeg Jets for their upcoming training camp and looked much more affected by the loss.
Still, the IceCaps' overall performance Saturday was such that head coach Keith McCambridge didn't need to cite personnel changes as reasons for the setback.
"We didn't use our thought process the way it should be used," said McCambridge as he began his assessment of the team, then later distilled that to "We just weren't a very smart team."
Much more damning however, was the coach's comment on the effort of some of his players in what he termed "the battle areas" of the ice.
"Sometimes you have the makeup of some players where they are going to make sure they go in there and come out of the corner with the puck or win the one-on-one battle at the net front, and (there are) other personnel who go into the corner just to go in there. They are, in my term, 'oxygen thieves,' at times" said McCambridge.
"They are just in there going through the motions."
Statistically, the IceCaps actually outscored the Marlies 2-1 in regular five-on-five situations, giving up three power-play goals, a shorthanded marker and an empty-net tally. But for McCambridge, there was little solace in that observation, only the obvious in that he was disappointed in his team's penalty kill and with some of the penalties that put them in those situations.
"I didn't like some of them, I didn't like some of them all," he said.
McCambridge did wryly note that he liked his team's first shift which saw O'Dell give the IceCaps a record-setting beginning, scoring 12 seconds after the opening faceoff — the fastest goal to start a game in the relatively short history of the IceCaps.
But that would be the only shot St. John's would get in the next 18 minutes of play.
In between, the visiting Marlies got power-play goals from Aucoin and Abbott, and a shorthanded marker from Scott.
The IceCaps second shot didn't come until after the 18-minute mark, leading to a Bronx cheer from many fans. It would be repeated in the middle frame, when St. John's registered its third shot on goal about seven minutes in.
"You try to tune that out," said St. John's defenceman Ben Chiarot. "I know I don't really hear that stuff.
"But if it happens, I don't think it comes from true IceCaps fans."
Still, for even St. John's most faithful backers, the first half of the game offered little to cheer about other than the happenings of the first dozen seconds. But at 10:20 of the second, it was Chiarot who woke up what had been a sleepy contest by engaging in a quick scrap with D'Amigo in front of the benches.
"A little bit of both," he answered whether the encounter was the result of frustration or a perceived need to spark his team.
"A little of trying to get the boys going, but I'm sure he (D'Amigo) didn't like it when I slashed him on the back of the leg.
"But sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and get your team going."
Five minutes later, O'Dell registered his second goal of the game. That made things interesting and the IceCaps' best stretch of play was only halted by the second intermission buzzer. But the Marlies put an end to any thoughts of a St.John's comeback in the third, getting a power-play marker from Colborne, an empty-netter from D'Amigo and Ashton's goal in the last minute of play.
Like his coach, O'Dell would not offer the sudden post-lockout roster shake-up as an explanation for how things went so wrong for St. John's after his quick goal, other than to say that if there is a need to redevelop chemistry among reworked groupings in a revamped lineup, it needs to happen soon.
"There's a lot of our stars called up and it's tough right now, but it's the same with every other team in the league," said O'dell. "It's no excuse. We just have to keep battling."
He and his teammates head back into the fray today, taking on the Marlies in a 2 p.m. rematch, a makeup game for Friday, when the blizzard that hit eastern Newfoundland led to the postponement of what would have been the opening contest of the two-game series.
Jussi Rynnas was in the net for the Marlies, making 19 saves, while Eddie Pasquale of the IceCaps faced 24 shots ... Defenceman Derek Meech has officially become the sixth IceCap recalled by Winnipeg for the Jets' training camp. He had always been expected to be among the promoted, along with fellow bllueliners Paul Postma and Zach Redmond and forwards Alex Burmsitrov, Soencer Machacek amd Maxime Macenauer. However, while the others travelled Winnipeg Wednesday, Meech remained behind because he was nursing a groin injury. He has now been cleared to join the Jets. He did not play for St. John's Saturday ... Because of the start time of today's game, the IceCaps' second annual Special Olympics dinner, which was to have been held at 1 p.m., will not go ahead as scheduled. The rematch has a 2 p.m. start because it allows the Marlies a chance of flying back to Toronto tonight. The team has already spent an extra day in St. John's, having arrived here Wednesday in order to beat the flight-cancelling blizzard, which began Thursday evening ... The IceCaps had two defenceman come off injury stints because of broken fingers, as Travis Ramsey played his first game since Nov. 24 and Julian Melchiori dressed for the first time since Dec. 7 ... The IceCaps had one healthy scratch Saturday: rearguard Richard Petiot, recently signed to a tryout contract. In his post-game interview Saturday, McCambridge wasn't prepared to say whether Petiot, who hasn't played a game since October of 2011, will draw into the lineup today ... Josh Lunden, just brought in from Las Vegas of the ECHL, made his first appearance of the season for St. John's, while goalie Chris Carrozzi, another recent ECHL call-up, was Pasquale' backup. Carrozzi was brought in when Mark Dekanich suffered a hamstring injury in practice this past week, an injury that's expected to keep him out of the lineup for at least four weeks ... Also on the IceCaps' injury list: Jason King (concussion), Hunter Tremblay (concussion), Aaron Gagnon (knee) and John Albert (back), although Albert could return during a six-game road trip beginning next weekend ... Colborne also had two assists to finish with three points for Toronto, all of them coming on the power play ... Numerous reports out of Toronto say the Leafs will sign journeyman defenceman Mike Mottau to a two-way deal, meaning it's likely he'll soon be with the Marlies. Mottau has appeared in over 300 NHL games, beginning with the Rangers and most recently with the Bruins. Since December, he's been playing on a tryout contract with the Florida Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio ... Marlies' forwards Will Acton (Keith) and Carter Ashton (Brent) are the sons of former NHL forwards, but defenceman Dylan Yeo is not related to Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo ... Saturday's Coors Light three stars: 1. Colborne 2. O'Dell 3. Marlies' defenceman Paul Ranger ... Brian Rogers' choice as the Mary Browns hardest-working IceCap: Chiarot