Will the real IceCaps please stand up?

Robin
Robin Short
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Once again, St. John’s is unable to sweep two games from an opponent, this time in a good-bad weekend against Hershey

Back several years ago, there was a popular television game show from the United States called “To Tell the Truth.”

St. John’s IceCaps’ centre Blair Riley (right) takes down the Hershey Bears’ Garrett Mitchell during their AHL game at Mile One Centre Saturday night. The IceCaps lost 4-0 the night after having beaten the Bears 5-1 at Mile One.

On the program, a guest was accompanied by two imposters who pretended to be the invited visitor. A panel of celebrities quizzed the three in attempt to discover who was telling the truth, and expose the guest.

On each program, the host would finally ask, “Will the real (insert name here) please stand up?”

So with that theme in mind, we pose the question: Will the real St. John’s IceCaps please stand up?

To the right, we have the IceCaps who put on a clinic of determination, jam, guts, chutzpah — pick an adjective — Friday night in a 5-1 whitewashing of the Hershey Bears, a game capped with a four-goal third period outburst.

On the other hand sit the IceCaps who mailed in two points Saturday, who laid an egg in a 4-0 loss to the Bears, a game in which the mascot may have posted the shutout had the puffin donned the pads for the Bears.

A game that even team captain Jason Jaffray acknowledged was “boring”, despite another crowd numbering 6,287 anxious to see a rare sweep on home ice.

Which brings us to another point.

While we know it’s still very early in the new American Hockey League season — with only a half-dozen games in, their skates have barely had a second sharpening — the IceCaps are showing early on a problem that’s persisted since Day 1 of the team’s arrival continues to manifest: they can’t win back-to-back games at Mile One.

St. John’s opened the season with a split against the Providence Bruins, and this past weekend let a golden opportunity slip away — “Those were two points for the taking tonight,” Jaffray said — by allowing the Bears to come out of hibernation.

And while last year and the year before that are in the archives — not to mention the teams are vastly different in personnel — it can’t be ignored that home traditionally has been anything but sweet to the IceCaps.

In 2012-13, in 19 two-game homestands at Mile One, St. John’s managed to come away with back-to-back victories only three times.

The year before, the IceCaps’ inaugural season when they were road warriors with one of the AHL’s best records away from home, St. John’s registered five sweeps in 19 homestands.

Now, while a split of a two-game series might by jim-dandy for a visiting team, it’s not so wise for the home side to settle for splits time and again.

Such performance brings, at the end of the day, a .500 record at home, an unacceptable showing for teams with aspirations of contending.

“I’ve been answering that question seven years now, when I was in Manitoba and Abbotsford (B.C.) and now St. John’s,” said Jaffray, “and the answer is there is no answer.

“I can’t figure it out. We talk about it the night before games, before we hit the ice. We got over video and talk about it there.

“It just seems like when you beat a team the first night, they come out a little more desperate the next (game).”

St. John’s was the desperate team Saturday night, but not in an urgent sense.

Perhaps it was all the more noticeable because the IceCaps looked so good Friday, in what was a superbly entertaining game that saw the teams tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, before the four-goal barrage in the third.

Perhaps it was because Adam Pardy, playing his first pro game at Mile One and earning second-star status, was called up to Winnipeg early Saturday morning.

Or because Patrice Cormier was also on recall. Or beacause rookie Adam Lowry was hurt all weekend. Or because veteran Jerome Samson missed Saturday’s game because of injury.

Or because all-star defenceman Zach Redmond, who would normally log 30-plus minutes of ice, anchor the power play and kill a penalty or three, still has yet to play.

Or maybe it was that the IceCaps who were available Saturday didn’t show up.

“We didn’t have enough glorious (scoring) chances tonight,” said Jaffray, who scored his first of the year Friday. “Their goalie (Philipp Grubauer) had a shutout, but I can count on one hand the amount of good saves he made.

“We didn’t put enough pressure on him, we didn’t generate enough chances and our power play (O-fer in five opportunities) wasn’t nearly good enough.”

But so we don’t come across as the Grim Reaper, and to satisfy those glass-is-half-full fans, it should probably be pointed out the IceCaps did hit five goalposts in the game.

Jaffray isn’t buying.

“The effort was there, but the effort wasn’t there from enough guys,” he said.

The weekend split drops St. John’s to 2-3-1. The IceCaps will practice this week before leaving Thursday for an 11-day, six-game road swing in New England that includes a pair of games each against Manchester and Portland, and single tilts against Providence and Worcester.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.

He can be reached by email ast rshort@thetelegram.com.

Follow him on Twitter

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, Hershey Bears

Geographic location: Manitoba, Abbotsford, Winnipeg New England Manchester Portland

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