IceCaps put power play front and centre at practice

Brendan McCarthy
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Neither the St. John’s IceCaps or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have scored a goal with the man advantage through the first two games of their American Hockey League Eastern Conference final, so you have to figure that whichever team finds a way to plug in its power play into a live socket will get a tremendous boost as the best-of-seven series resumes with three consecutive games in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., beginning tonight.
Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to find out the IceCaps were working extensively on the power play during practice Tuesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, using a couple of combinations featuring the bigger bodies of Patrice Cormier and Josh Lunden parked in front of the goaltender.

One unit had Jason Jaffray and Andrew Gordon working with Cormier at centre (John Albert is normally the pivot between Jaffray and Gordon), with Josh Morrissey and Will O’Neill on the points. The other had Eric O’Dell between Kael Moullierat and Lunden, who was replacing regular winger Carl Klingberg. Zach Redmond and Brenden Kichton were the defencemen completing the latter combination.

The IceCaps are just seven-for-58 on the power play through 12 playoff games, and 0-8 in the first two games of this series, which the teams split over the weekend at Mile One Centre.

That’s an 11.4 per cent success rate, far below the accepted median of 20 per cent. Nevertheless, St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge is hopeful of what could be a critical breakout.

See PK, page C2

“(We) feel we’re generating some good chances from it,” McCambridge said of the power play Tuesday. “The chemistry between the units seems to be strong. We’re always working on different elements of it to ensure that we’re giving different looks, especially during a best-of-seven series.

“You don’t want to stay stagnant with the same groups.”

Mind you, it’s been a while since the IceCaps were truly clicking on the power play. In fact, over the last 12 games of the regular season, they went just five-for-45 when a man up, working out to an 11.1 success rate, nearly identical to what they’ve fashioned through their dozen post-season outings.

Still, it must be conceded the IceCaps have done pretty well despite not having a truly effective PP, going 6-3-3 in those last 12 regular-season contests and 8-4 in the playoffs. Helping balance the special teams books has been the St. John’s penalty kill, which has knocked down 47-of-54, or 87 per cent, of opposition opportunities in the playoffs, including all eight awarded to the Penguins in the first two games.

One doesn’t have to imagine what a power play of similar clout might help produce. All one has to do is consider this: the IceCaps have scored at least one power-play goal in just nine of their last 24 games, but of those nine games, they have won eight.

— With files from Robin Short in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Organizations: IceCaps, Penguins

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