Advanced research: Cleaning out the notebook as IceCaps prepare for conference final

Brendan McCarthy
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Updated to show Marlies and Stars will meet in Western final

Some items to consider now that the St. John’s IceCaps have advanced to the American Hockey League Eastern Conference final by defeating the Norfolk Admirals in a second-round Calder Cup playoff series:

 

Jason Jaffray did not dress in Friday's series clincher.

 • Maybe it was just a one-night thing  — and he did go so far as to participate in the warm-up skate —  but the fact IceCaps’ captain and regular-season scoring leader Jason Jaffray didn’t play in Friday’s Game 6, series-clinching win at Mile One Centre is at least a little disconcerting. Jaffray, who at 32, is four years older than anyone else on the St. John’s roster, had missed Thursday’s regular practice for what was described as a “maintenance day”, which usually suggests an injury (or illness) that might eventually be played through. But that wasn’t the case Friday night for a player who appeared in all 76 regular-season and nine playoff games before Friday, and one who has made a career of playing with pain.

 

• At least Jaffray (and any other hurting IceCaps) will have some decent time to heal. The other Eastern Conference semifinal series, between the Providence Bruins and Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (the Penguins lead 3-2) will go to at least a Game 6 on Monday, and to Wednesday if a seventh game is required. That means the Eastern Conference final won’t begin until Saturday, May 24 at Mile One Centre, with Game 2 of the best-of-seven series there on Sunday, May 25. Both those games will have 7:30 p.m. starts.

Whomever the opponent, St. John’s will have home-ice-advantage in the series and it will be a 2-3-2 affair in terms of home and away games.

 

* For their first two playoff series this spring, the IceCaps took on teams (Albany and Norfolk) that they hadn’t faced in the regular season. That won’t be the case this time around. 

The IceCaps played the division-rival P-Bruins eight times this season, going 4-3-1. They split a four-game season series with Wilkes-Barre, which they’ve faced in the prior post-season play, having taken a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal from the Penguins in 2011-12.

 

• Whether it’s Providence or Wilkes-Barre facing St. John’s in the next round, there are some obvious storylines.

With the Penguins, it’s presence of two former IceCaps — goaltender Peter Mannino and right-winger Spencer Machacek, the IceCaps’ leading scorer in 2011-12, their inaugural season.

Machacek, 25, came to Wilkes-Barre in a February trade (for Paul Thompson) after having started the season with the Springfield Falcons and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization. Overall, he had 19 goals and 33 point in 56 AHL games in 2013-14.

Mannino, 30, started the season in Wilkes-Barre, but was actually suspended by the AHL team last November when he refused an assignment to Wheeling of the ECHL. He did eventually report to Wheeling and was soon brought back to Wilkes-Barre, where he finished the regular season strongly and rolled that into the playoffs, where he’s played every minute of Wilkes-Barre’s eight post-season games to date.

 

• In all, Mannino appeared in 18 AHL games this season —  mostly during Wilkes-Barre’s stretch run —  finishing with an 11-4 record, 1.76 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Those numbers helped the Penguins secure the Harry ‘Hap’ Holmes Memorial Aaward for the lowest team goals-against average in the league this season, although Mannino won’t get his name on the trophy because he didn’t appear in the required 25 games. Instead, the engraver will place the names of Jeff DesLauriers and Eric Hartzell, neither of of whom have dressed for a playoff game this spring.

Deslauriers is said to be done for the season because of injury, while Matt Murray, who joined Wilkes-Barre after having been with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL this season, has backed up Mannino for every playoff game so far.

 

• Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins having been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is no team participating in the Calder Cup playoffs whose parent team is still involved in the NHL post-season. The Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Texas Stars (Dallas) will meet in the Western Conference final now that the Stars have knocked off the defending Calader Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit) in six games. The Western final begins Friday in Austin, Tex.

After Pittsburgh was knocked off by the New York Rangers, the Penguins sent dangerous forward Brian Gibbons (30 points in 29 AHL games this season) to Wilkes-Barre. Gibbons played 41 games in Pittsburgh (5G, 12A) and even saw some time on Sidney Crosby’s line.

There had been thought that scoring winger Matt Fraser, who had spent most of the season in Providence, would end up back there after playing with the big Bruins in the playoffs. However, reports say Fraser’s season’s is done as he requires surgery for a foot injury suffered in the P-Bruins’ first playoff series with Springfield.

 

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: IceCaps, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets Toronto Marlies Boston Bruins NHL Texas Stars New York Rangers

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Providence, Albany Norfolk Pittsburgh Sault Ste. Marie Dallas Detroit Grand Rapids

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