Play-making left-winger rebounding from slow start as IceCaps prepare for Worcester Sharks
After a sluggish start, in which he didn’t register his first goal until the eighth game of the year, Kael Mouillierat appears to have found his scoring touch, which can only be good news for a St. John’s IceCaps team still looking to put together some kind of win streak 14 games in to the new season.
© — Telegram file photo
Following a three-point effort in two games against the Manchester Monarchs last weekend at Mile One Centre, the St. John’s IceCaps’ Kael Mouillierat is second in team scoring with 13 points.
As the IceCaps enter a three-game American Hockey League series with Worcester Sharks starting 7:30 tonight (930 AM, stjohnsicecaps.com) — the first of four three-game sets planned at Mile One this winter — Mouillierat is coming off back-to-back games in which he’s scored.
He’s currently second in team scoring with three goals and 10 assists, three points behind IceCaps’ scoring leader Eric O’Dell.
Mouillierat and O’Dell are two-thirds of the IceCaps’ top line this year, and part of last season. Together with big Patrice Cormier, recently reassigned to St. John’s following a brief stint with the parent Winnipeg Jets, the three combined for four of the seven St. John’s goals last weekend against the Manchester Monarchs, another two-game series that ended in a split.
“It took a little bit of time to pick up where we left off last year,” said Mouillierat, the 26-year-old product of Edmonton, “but ‘Corms’ has been really good for us. He’s a big body. He gets the puck for us and gives a lot of room out there to make plays.”
Before Cormier arrived on the scene, the spot on the right wing belonged to Josh Lunden. But Lunden has been sidelined the past eight games due to injury. Enter Cormier, and O’Dell, the man in the middle, and left-winger Mouillierat haven’t missed a beat.
“The big thing with me and ‘Odey’ is we need that third guy who can get us the puck, and make some plays for us ... a big body who can help us on the forecheck,” Mouillierat said.
Mouillierat, O’Dell and Lunden all finished strong last season. O’Dell collected 13 goals and 14 assists in his last 20 games, while Mouillierat had six goals and 18 helpers in the same period of time. After Lunden finally netted his first goal as an IceCap, he caught fire with eight goals and eight assists in his final 16 starts last season.
While O’Dell picked up where he left off — he netted a hat trick in his second game this year — Mouillierat struggled to find the net.
“You always want to get some goals,” he said after practice Tuesday, “and they’re starting to come now. I was gripping the stick a little tight there for a while.”
Mouillierat was brought in by the IceCaps early last season when St. John’s ran into a rash of injuries. He was, at the time, one of the top players in the ECHL and came highly recommended by Winnipeg pro scout Bruce Southern and the Idaho Steelheads’ coaching staff.
In his first game, on his first shift, Mouillierat scored for the IceCaps. He finished the season with an impressive 11 goals and 31 assists in only 50 games.
“I think I’m more of a playmaker,” he says. “I don’t have the natural scoring ability some of these guys in the (IceCaps) room have.
“I feel I have some good vision out there, and I like to move the puck and find the open guys.”
Had it not been for the NHL lockout last year, and the resulting domino affect which probably cost Mouillierat his job in the American league, it’s probable he would not have wound up in St. John’s hands. As a result, coach Keith McCambridge said, the organization was “lucky” to have found Mouillierat, signed him to a PTO last season and a new contract over the summer.
“He’s at a good place now,” McCambridge said of Mouillierat’s game. “In the last two games, his game got back to where we expected it to be.”
In the Sharks, the IceCaps are facing a physical team landing in St. John’s on a three-game winless streak. They have met once this year, at the DCU Centre in Worcester where the Sharks blanked the IceCaps 3-0. Mouillierat and the Sharks’ Bracken Kearns engaged in second-period skirmish in that game.
“They’re a big, physical team,” said McCambridge, “a team now playing with desperation. The history with this team — and it’s one that has the same coaching staff — is they’re big and physical. We don’t expect that to change.”