© — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The St. John’s IceCaps’ Carl Klingberg (48) steals the puck from the Portland Pirates’ Ethan Werek (8) during one of the teams’ two American Hockey League games this past weekend at Mile One Centre. In 54 games, Klingberg has 16 goals and 14 assists. At rear is Josh Lunden who scored his first of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Pirates.
IceCaps set for six games in nine days
The St. John’s IceCaps head onto the road Thursday facing a schedule that will test their motors — individually and as a team.
It’s been 24 days since the IceCaps’ last road swing, and in that period, St. John’s (38-20-4) played seven home games at Mile One Centre, going 6-1-0. By comparison, the six games that make up the upcoming road trip will be played in nine days in a half-dozen cities.
It kicks off with a three-in-three weekend, starting Friday night in Hartford against the Wolf Pack and continuing with games Saturday and Sunday in Bridgeport and Springfield. Matchups in Syracuse (March 26), Binghamton (March 28) and Hershey (March 29) make up the back half of the trip.
This will just about complete the IceCaps’ road schedule for 2013-14, save for a couple of regular-season finishing games in Worcester and Portland. In between are six home games during the first half of April.
Interestingly, that season-ending game against Portland is the only divisional contest left for St. John’s. But 12 of the remaining 14 — the exception being two home dates with the Hamilton Bulldogs — are within the Eastern Conference, and given how the IceCaps have been working to establish playoff position — which is based for the greatest part on conference standings — that’s important.
That’s not to say a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division — and the resulting guaranteed top-three seed — is outside the realm of possibility for St. John’s, which is eight points behind the division- and league-leading Manchester Monarchs, but has three games in hand on Manchester. It’s just that the task is a little more difficult with no remaining head-to-head games between those two teams.
You can be sure that IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge isn’t trumpeting this fact to his players, but only four of St. John’s remaining 14 games are against teams currently sitting in playoff positions.
Those four games include three against Springfield, which sits second in the Eastern Conference, and the one against Binghamton, which leads the Northeast Division.
A few statistical notes: St. John’s is averaging 3.52 goals each game, tied for second-most in the entire AHL. defensively, the IceCaps have allowed 2.69 goals per game, which is the eighth-stingiest record in the league … Rookie defenceman Brenden Kichton has been held off the scoresheet the last four games, but the next assist he gets will be his 34th of the 2013-14 campaign, and will set a record for most helpers in a season. Team captain Jason Jaffray had 33 in 2013-13 … There are often awards handed out for most improved player, based upon showing from one season to another. But how about one for in-season improvement? In the IceCaps’ case, it would have to go to defenceman Will O’Neill. On Dec. 3, after 17 games, the sophomore rearguard had one goal, six assists and a team-worst minus-11 rating. In 39 games since, O’Neill has scored seven goals, added 17 assists and has gone plus-12.