IceCaps looking for consistency in rematch with Sharks

Robin Short
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St. John’s hoping to ride momentum from Wednesday’s comeback win tonight in Game 2 of three-game set

The St. John’s IceCaps pulled the proverbial rabbit out of a hat Wednesday night, escaping with a 3-2 overtime win over the Worcester Sharks in the first of a three-game series amongst American Hockey League divisional opponents.

St. John's Ice Caps player Jerome Samson gets ready to fire a shot during the team’s practice at Mile One Centre on Thursday. Samson scored the game-tying goal and overtime winner as the IceCaps edged the Worcester Sharks 3-2 Wednesday. The teams play the second game of their three-game set tonight, 7:30, back at Mile One.

And while the IceCaps celebrated by pouring over the boards after Jerome Samson netted the game-winner just 26 seconds into the extra session, you can bet IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels with how the IceCaps went about getting the two points.

Rather, St. John’s was lucky to come away with the victory, having been outplayed for the opening 40 minutes.

Chances are McCambridge has addressed his feelings, in no uncertain terms, as the teams prepare for Game 2 of the series tonight (7:30 p.m., 930AM, Rogers TV).

“Based on the last game against Manchester, we felt it was a little bit of a reward to pull that game out,” McCambridge said. “But I didn’t like the way we played the first two periods.

“Any time a shorthanded goal is scored against you, on the first shot of the game, and considering the same thing happened on the last shot in the previous game, well, the momentum really drops out of your team.

“It’s hard to get your intensity back to a level where it needs to be. It was tough to get the traction, but we played at the level we needed in the third period.”

The season is not even at the quarter pole yet, and already the IceCaps have this little history of giving up late game-winning goals, and shorthanded markers.

In the opening game of the season, defenceman Will O’Neill shattered his stick on a shot from the Providence Bruins’ blueline. The Bruins’ Nick Johnson scooped up the loose puck, dashed all the way up the ice and scored on Eddie Pasquale for the game-winner.

In overtime, no less.

Chalk that one up to spit happens.

Then, this past Saturday night, as time ticked down in regulation play and the score tied 2-2 between the IceCaps and Manchester Monarchs, the IceCaps turned the puck over at the Manchester blueline. Brian O’Neill scooped up the loose puck, blew past two St. John’s defencemen — including rookie Brenden Kichton, who stumbled to the ice — and beat Pasquale.

With 14 seconds left. And the Monarchs shorthanded.

Then, Wednesday night, just two minutes after the opening whistle, the IceCaps’ Eric O’Dell made an ill-advised pass to O’Neill at the Worcester blueline. O’Neill, who was being pressured by Rylan Schwartz, couldn’t corral the pass and Schwartz dashed up the ice and backhanded a shot over Pasquale’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead.

While Manchester played shorthanded.

This isn’t funny anymore.

“Thing is,” McCambridge said, “with a power play, you want to gain momentum, not give it away. Obviously, being five-on-four, you don’t want to be out there making soft plays. You have to outwork the penalty kill because you know they’re going to come out and play hard.

“And it’s not only the shorthanded goals ... it’s the chances against. It takes momentum out of your game and wears down your goaltender. You know you’re going to get scored on during the season. It’s just that the frequency at which it’s happening now is too high.”

Luckily for St. John’s, Samson picked the right time to score his first goal since Oct. 12, a period of time interrupted by a seven-game stint on injured reserve.

Samson tied the game on a wrapround with under two minutes left in regulation time while the IceCaps played — yup, you guessed it — shorthanded. Then the Greenfield Park, Que., native won it in OT.

“We weren’t happy with our game early on,” Samson said. “The effort wasn’t there and we didn’t stick to the game plan in the first 40 minutes. But we gathered ourselves in the third period and came out with a better effort.

“We were making plays and skating.”

The IceCaps have another three three-game series planned for Mile One after the trio of games with Worcester. But first, and second, are two remaining games against the Sharks and a crack at a rare series sweep at Mile One.

Pasquale has played the last seven games for St. John’s, but it’s not too hard to imagine Wednesday night’s second star of the game not getting the start tonight as IceCaps look to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Organizations: IceCaps, Monarchs

Geographic location: Manchester, Worcester, Greenfield Park OT

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