Norfolk, Va. — The St. John’s IceCaps will look to put a stranglehold on the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinal when they take to the ice tonight against the Norfolk Admirals at The Scope Arena in downtown Norfolk.
The IceCaps won Game 3 of the series Saturday in Norfolk by a 5-3 decision, and a win tonight would give St. John’s a 3-1 series lead heading in Game 5 Tuesday night.
“To go up 3-1 knowing we still have two games at home if need be, would be a huge hit to that side over there,” IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray said, while nodding towards the Admirals dressing room.
“We’re taking this as another, huge, must-win game. If they drop this one, they know they’re in a lot of trouble.”
The Admirals won the opening game of the series 3-1 last Tuesday night at Mile One Centre in St. John’s. The IceCaps rebounded with a 2-1 decision Wednesday.
Saturday night at The Scope, St. John’s scored first, but the Admirals netted two for a 2-1 lead after the first period.
That lead stood through the second period, but the IceCaps’ Josh Morrissey tallied 39 seconds into the third to tie things up. Then the teams traded goals less than a minute apart until Jerome Samson netted the winner at 10:40 of the second period. Adam Lowry capped the victory with an empty-netter.
“There were a couple of guys squeezing their sticks a little tight,” Jaffray said. “That was a huge goal for Samson, a big weight off his back.”
Jaffray noted a big key to the IceCaps is the team’s depth. Coach Keith McCambridge has rolled four lines throughout the playoffs.
“I don’t know if I’ve been part of a team that’s had such great depth,” the captain said. “You could play five lines out there and have a strong lineup. That’s been the strength of our team, rolling four lines.
“We stayed fresh throughout the game and maybe that’s one of the reasons we came up with four goals in the third period (Saturday). I don’t know about the other guys, but I wasn’t exhausted come the third like I have been on other teams.
“We have four lines that roll all game long, four great penalty killers and everybody stays fresh. It’s one of the strengths of our team.”
The IceCaps staged a brisk morning skate today, and defencemen Julian Melchiori and Kris Fredheim were not wearing non-contact jerseys, meaning they should be ready to go.
But don’t expect either to play. They remained behind on the ice with the other ‘Black Aces’ — players on the roster who have yet to dress in the post-season. Among them are defenceman Cody Lampl and forwards Ryan Schnell, Josh Lunden, Ryan Olsen, Brandon MacLean, Austen Brassard and goalies Eric Comrie and Jussi Olkinuora.
McCambridge has juggled his lines a little, and there were times this morning when Kael Mouillierat was skating with John Albert and Andrew Gordon, and Jason Jaffray was partnered with Eric O’Dell and Carl Klingberg.
The other line pairings — Kyle McKinnon, Patrice Cormier and Blair Riley, and Adam Lowry, J.C. Lipon and Jerome Samson — remained intact.
Defence pairings stayed the same — Josh Morrissey and Will O’Neill, Ben Chiarot and Zach Redmond and Brenden Kichton and Jordan Hill.