IceCaps rally in third period to beat Bulldogs

Brendan McCarthy
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St. John's IceCaps forward Eric O'Dell (right) and Hamilton Bulldogs defenceman Peter Merth scramble in front of Bulldogs goaltender Dustin Tokarski during first-period AHL action at Mile One Centre Saturday evening. The IceCaps won the game 4-3.

From the start, the St. John's IceCaps looked good in green.

It just took them a little while to start playing well in that colour.

Wearing eye-catching St. Patrick's Day jerseys, the IceCaps scored three unanswered third-period goals to rally for a 4-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in American Hockey League play at Mile One Centre Saturday night.

Eric O'Dell scored twice in the third for St. John's, including the game-tying tally with 2:07 left in regulation, and then drew an assist on Josh Lunden's game-winner at 19:34.

The IceCaps (25-32-5), who had plenty of fizz in a 5-0 win over the Bulldogs Friday night at Mile One, looked mostly flat to start Saturday's rematch.

The Bulldogs (24-31-6) got goals from Peter Holland and Phillipe Lefebvre in the first eight minutes of the game. The IceCaps got onto the board at 15:47 on Ray Sawada's redirection of an Aaron Gagnon shot, but Hamilton restored it's two-tally lead just over a minute later when Tyler Murovich took advantage of a Patrick Cullity giveaway in the St. John's zone and beat a surprised Mark Dekanich in the St. John's net to make it 3-1.

The IceCaps began picking up the pace late in the first and held an edge in the second, but that 3-1 score stood up until early in the third, when O'Dell faked a drop pass to Will O'Neill, then fired a well-placed wrist shot past the glove of Bulldogs' goalie Dustin Tokarski.

That was O'Dell's 20th goal of the season and he got another at 17:53, leaving him one short of the 22 scored by Jason King last season, the single-season high in the short history of the IceCaps.

By this time, the pressure was almost all being produced by the St. John's steam engine, and the home side was rewarded in the final minute. 

O'Dell won a draw in the Bulldogs' zone and eventually found himself with the puck behind the Hamilton net and swept it out front, from where Lunden slid it into the net.

It was Lunden's second goal in as many games. He got his first-ever AHL marker — after 50 games in the league — in Friday's victory, one that ended an eight-game home-ice losing streak.

Dekanich, who had made 23 saves for the shutout Friday, dealt with 19 shots Saturday, but only nine over the last 40 minutes — six by Hamilton in the second and three in the third.

Tokarski was far busier, with 36 shots sent his way.

——————

Just before Saturday's game, the IceCaps officially announced they've signed forward Vinny Saponari to an amateur tryout contract.

The 23-year-old Saponari was a fourth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers (later to become the Winnipeg Jets) in 2008 out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he was a teammate of IceCaps' forwards John Albert and Ryan Schnell.

A native of Powder Springs, Ga., Saponari was the first Georgia-born and raised player drafted into the NHL.

Saponari played two seasons for Boston University, but was dismissed from the Terriers late in 2009-10 season for breaching team rules. He spent the following year with Dubuque of the USHL, helping the Fighting Saints win a league title, then transferred to Northeastern University, where he spent the last two seasons.

The six-foot-one, 195-pound, right-shooting Saponari wound up his collegiate career earlier this week. He was a senior captain for Northeastern this season and finished second in team scoring with seven goals and 22 assists, for 29 points. in 34 games.

Saponari arrived in St. John's just before Saturday's game, but did not play.

 

Notes

The weekend wins moved the IceCaps out of the AHL basement, one point up on the Bulldogs and two clear of the last-place Adirondack Phantoms ... Cullity drew an assist on O'Dell's first goal. It was the first point as an IceCap for Cullity, who had made his St. John's debut Friday ... Gagnon's assist on Sawada's goal extended his point-scoring streak to seven games ... Sawada's goal was witnessed in person by his mother Regina, who is visiting St. John's from Richmond, B.C. ... O'Dell's five-point weekend gives him the team scoring lead with 38 points, three more than team captain Jason Jaffray ... Kael Mouillierat had two assists for St. John's Saturday, giving him 32 points in 40 games .. .Add Josh Godfrey's name to that of IceCaps with concussions. The defenceman suffered the injury in the second period Friday in just his third game with St. John's. Also sidelined with concussions: Jason King, Hunter Tremblay and Ivan Telegin, although King has resumed skating in practice wearing a non-contact jersey ... With Godfrey sidelined, rookie blueliner Cody Sol drew into a lineup that once again featured 11 forwards and seven defencemen ... Saturday's game finished a six-game homestand for St. John's, which begins a five-game road swing with contests next Friday and Saturday in Portland, Me., against the Pirates ...

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Hamilton Bulldogs 4

Geographic location: St. John's

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