IceCaps’ ‘Black Aces’ ready to jump in
With a playoff beard that’s been in full bloom since the time he arrived in St. John’s last fall, Cody Lampl might not be the prettiest cheerleader you’ve seen, but he’s okay with that.
He’s also good with the fact he’s traded his sticks for pompoms, and charter membership in the St. John’s IceCaps’ ‘Black Aces’ brigade.
They’re the crew of players who haven’t played and — unless there’s injury, suspension or some other reason for one or a couple of the regulars to be pulled from the lineup — aren’t likely to see any game action in these American Hockey League playoffs.
Lampl, along with Josh Lunden, Ryan Schnell, Ryan Olsen, Austen Brassard, Brandon MacLean and extra goalies Jussi Olkinuora and Eric Comrie, are usually the last players to leave the ice in practice.
Outside of Lunden, who has two Calder Cup playoff appearances, none have dressed for the IceCaps in the post-season.
“It’s difficult, but at the same time it’s easy with a supportive group like this,” said Lampl, who appeared in exactly one half of the IceCaps’ games this season, 36. “When you play the whole season with a strong group of guys — we’re such a tight family — it’s a lot easier (sitting and watching).
“If you’re playing on a team where the fellows don’t support each other and it’s every man for himself, that’s a different story. I’ve never been in this situation before, but with the guys here, and how supportive we are of each other, it’s easy to cheer for your team.”
Lampl, 27, was invited to the IceCaps camp on a tryout after four years in the ECHL (he managed to get in two AHL games, with Grand Rapids and Abbotsford).
Popular and well-liked inside the IceCaps’ dressing room, Lampl says being professional about accepting his limited role with the team is key. Besides, hockey being what it is, things could change in a hurry.
“So you have to keep yourself ready,” said the product of Ketchum, Idaho, in the heart of ski country. “Another thing, too, is when you’re not playing, you have to push the pace in practice.
“Guys who are playing might be a little tired from the night before, so you have to keep the pace as sharp and as quick as possible so everyone has the chance to prepare and keep winning.
“You have to be professional, you have to embrace your role and you have to do it to the best of your ability.”
Still, it’s not easy, sitting in the press box or in the stands, as in the case of the half-full Scope Arena, where the IceCaps played the Norfolk Admirals in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series last night.
Jason Jaffray remembers the feeling, back in 2004-05 with the Manitoba Moose, and his first full season in the American league.
As a Black Ace for three rounds, he did get into one Calder Cup playoff game that year.
“And the one thing I really regret is not being ready for that one game, not being as prepared as I wanted to be,” he recalls.
“You have to be ready. There are always injuries, there are always times when guys are fit into the lineup. Look at Will O’Neill, a guy who was a healthy scratch to start the playoffs and now he’s manning a power play unit, and has been a huge cog in a couple of wins
“But I know it’s a tough situation for them. It’s tough to stay upbeat when you’re getting bag-skated every day. Hopefully they’ll be ready to go when called upon.”
Despite sitting every game, Lampl and the others are still very much IceCaps, not treated any differently than Michael Hutchinson or Andrew Gordon.
“We have a great group of guys here,” Lampl said. “Everyone is tight, noone is treated any differently if you’re playing or not playing. As long as you’re bringing the right work ethic and pulling the same rope.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve even been part of.”