© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
The St. John’s IceCaps’ Kael Mouillierat battles for position with Norfolk Admirals captain Garnet Exelby in front of netminder John Gibson during Game 2 of the team’s American Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night at Mile One Centre. At right is IceCaps forward Eric O’Dell. The IceCaps won 2-1 to tie the best-of-seven series at a game apiece as it moves to Norfolk, Va., for Games 3, 4 and 5 this coming Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
St. John’s scores twice with man advantage and Hutchinson makes 32 saves in 2-1 Game 2 win over Norfolk
It was a game of special teams Wednesday night, and the much-maligned St. John’s IceCaps power play finally found its spark in a 2-1 must-win decision over the Norfolk Admirals at Mile One Centre.
That ties the Eastern Conference semifinal at a game apiece as the Calder Cup playoff series now shifts to Norfolk, Va., for Games 3, 4 and 5 Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at The Scope Arena.
“It was the biggest game of the year,” said St. John’s forward Patrice Cormier, a physical presence all night, “and if we go down 0-2 heading into Norfolk for three games, we’re in a pretty big hole.
“We would have loved to have had two wins, but we’ll take the split.”
The IceCaps dropped the opener 3-1 Tuesday night behind a 42-save effort by Admirals’ goalie John Gibson.
St. John’s started slowly in that game, but dominated the final two periods. And for the most part last night, it was the host team again holding the edge in play.
Only this time they had something to show for it.
“It’s good to finally get rewarded,” Cormier said. “He’s (Gibson) a hell of a good goalie, one of the best in the league along with Hutch (the IceCaps’ Michael Hutchinson), but we’ve been working hard. We deserve it.
“We just have to keep shooting, keep getting traffic in front of the net. I can’t say we really solved him, but we did stick to our game plan, like every good team does.”
The IceCaps came into the game two-for-24 on the power play, but goals by rookie Josh Morrissey and Jason Jaffray with the man advantage improved that woeful percentage.
Following a scoreless first period, Morrissey scored his first professional goal at 2:48 of the second, a shot Gibson probably should have stopped.
Just under three minutes later, with the Admirals’ Matt Bailey serving four minutes for high sticking, Norfolk veteran defenceman Nolan Yonkman threw the puck up the middle where it was intercepted by Jaffray, who turned and fired, surprising Gibson.
Chris Wagner provided the impetus for a thrilling finish, drawing the Admirals to within one goal by scoring a power play marker with 9:55 left in regulation time.
Norfolk has had its moments on the power play, too, entering Wednesday’s game with one goal in 12 chances.
“It came down to special teams, and we missed a couple of assignments, and there was a turnover and they made us pay,” said Admirals coach Trent Yawney.
“I thought for the most part we hung in there, and had our chances and their goalie made a couple of big saves.”
The IceCaps’ Hutchinson stopped 32 pucks, and Gibson was busy again, facing 41 St. John’s shots.
Not that Yawney was buying those numbers.
“Whoever is counting the shots needs to get their eyes checked,” he deadpanned. “That said, you always want to cut down the number of shots against. But I thought a lot of the shots came from the outside.”
The series is shaping up to be a tough, physical affair, not that the robust Cormier is minding that one bit.
“We have a lot of big guys — Lowry, me, Riley. Everybody can handle the rough stuff,” he said. “It’s physical, and I’m sure in their barn it’s going to be even more physical.
“We’ll be ready.”
NOTES: In the Mile One Centre crowd last night was country music star Toby Keith, in town for a couple of concerts … Until Wednesday’s game, the Admirals’ penalty killing had been lights out, knocking down 21 of 22 man advantage situations. This season, Norfolk had the best penalty killing unit in the league … Admirals defenceman Josh Manson is the son of former NHLer Dave Manson … Veteran defenceman Ryan Parent drew into the Admirals lineup Wednesday when Sami Vatanen was recalled to the Anaheim Ducks … The Molson Canadian three stars were 1. Michael Hutchinson 2. John Gibson 3. Jason Jaffray …