Result spoils late rally by home side
Nick Johnson's second goal of the game at 2:04 of overtime gave the Providence Bruins a 4-3 win over the St. John's IceCaps, spoiling a ferocious late-third period comeback by the IceCaps Friday night at Mile One Centre in the very first game on the 2013-14 American Hockey League regular-season schedule.
The IceCaps had scored twice in the last two minutes of the game with goalie Eddie Pasquale on the bench for an extra attacker, the first goal coming from rookie JC Lipon at 18:11, followed up by a game-tying tally by St. John's 2012-13 leading scorer Eric O'Dell 52 seconds later.
But in OT, with St. John's controlling the play in the offensive zone, the puck came back to IceCaps' defenceman Will O'Neill just inside the blueline. As O'Neill went to deliver a slapshot, his stick broke. Johnson scooped up the loose puck and skated the length of the ice, finishing up his breakaway by slipping a backhand shot past Pasquale.
Adam Lowry, like Lipon, with his first tally as a pro, had the other goal for St. John's. It also came in the third period. Lowry's marker, midway through the frame, made the score 2-1 as the IceCaps finally solved Providence netminder Niklas Svedberg, last season's AHL goalie of the year.
Svedberg ended the night with 40 saves. Pasquale faced 30 shots at the other end.
However, the Bruins restored their two-goal lead just over three minutes after St. John's got on the board. The home side ran into penalty trouble, Jared Knight scoring on the second of two straight power plays, the Bruins' only ones of the game.
Matt Fraser, a 30-goal scorer and an AHL all-star the last two seasons, opened the scoring for the visitors in the first period, while Johnson tallied in the middle frame, both goals resulting from St. John's defensive miscues.
Most concerning for the IceCaps and their fans though has to be the loss of forward and newcomer Blair Riley, who looked to be briefly knocked out — or something close to it — during a second-period fight with the Bruins' Tyler Randell. Riley took a shot to the head after the players had exchanged a few punches. Both had removed their helmets pre-fight, ignoring new rules — and the minor penalties that come with breach of them — put in place in hopes of offering more protection to players in fights.
Riley remained on the ice for a while, but with help, eventually got to his feet. He was noticeably woozy as he left the ice and made his way to the St. John's dressing-room area for medical attention. He did not return to the game, but was seen in the press box in the third period.
St. John's head coach Keith McCambridge said Riley was checked out by doctors and will be reassessed today, but offered no other details on the forward's condition.
Still with injury news, the IceCaps are carrying 11 defencemen, but it looks like they'll already be testing their blueline depth. Three rearguards are sidelined by injury, including Kris Fredheim and Travis Ehrhardt, who have been hurting for a while.
Whjat really caught the attention of observers was the absence of Zach Redmond, who was hurt in practice Thursday and is, according to McCambridge, week-to-week with a leg injury. The good news, if there can be any in such cases, is that it doesn't involve the leg that was lacerated during a practice accident earlier this year while he was with the parent Winnipeg Jets. That injury, which threatened Redmond's life because of immediate loss of blood, led to extensive surgery and caused him to miss most of the rest of the season.
The two teams face off again 7:30 p.m. tonight at Mile One. The game will be carried live on Rogers Television, on radio at CJYQ 930AM and online at stjohnsicecaps.com ... There was a spine-tingling start to Friday's game, even before the puck dropped for the opening faceoff. That came courtesy of anthem singers Chris Andrews of Shanneyganock, who delivered the Ode to Newfoundland with passion, and army reserve office Scotty Newlands, who thundered through the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada. As the latter was sung, a huge Canadian flag was passed over the crowd on the west side of Mile One ...The IceCaps had one power play to the Bruins' two ... Ryan Spooner, last season's leading scorer for Providence, assisted on both Bruins' goal … Other scratches for St. John's were defenceman Patrick Cullity and Cody Sol and forwards Kyle MacKinnon, Carl Klingberg and Austen Brassard … A half-dozen players made their IceCaps' debut in the game: forwards Andrew Gordon, Jerome Samson, Lipon, and Riley and defencemen Cody Lampl and Jordan Hill … Scratches for the P-Bruins: forwards Alex Fallstrom and Seth Griffith, and rearguards Chris Casto and Ben Youds … Former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen, now a Winnipeg city councillor, was special guest for the opening ceremonies ... Loudest cheers from the fans during team introductions were for captain Jason Jaffray, O'Dell and Pasquale amongst the players, as well as team president Danny Williams, assistant coach Jason King and assistant equipment manager Shannon 'Shaq' Coady ... John Albert and Gordon were the assistant captains for St. John's … There were four other games on the AHL schedule on opening night, but the one at Mile One was the first because of time difference ... In all five cases, the road team won on AHL season-opening night. In one of those contests, Kilbride's Luke Adam had the lone goal in the Rochester American's 8-1 loss to the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins, the defending Calder Cup champions ... The Molson Canadian three stars at Mile One Friday: 1. O'Dell, SJs 2. Svedberg, Pro 3. Johnson, Pro…. The Mary Brown's hardest-working IceCap: Josh Lunden ... Lunden was plus-three on the night, while O'Dell was plus-two, with six shots on goal ...