IceCaps take the hits, grab a commanding series lead

Robin Short
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Beat punishing Penguins 2-1; move to within one win of berth in Calder Cup final

Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa. -- The St. John’s IceCaps withstood a pounding from a frustrated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Wednesday night in what would end up a 5-0 IceCaps Game 3 win in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final.

The St. John's IceCaps’ Ben Chiarot rubs out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Bobby Farnham along the boards during Game 4 of the team’s American Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.  The IceCaps won 2-1 and can wrap up the series with a win in Game 5 on Saturday night.  — Photo by Photo Andrew Krech/The Citizen’s Voice

The St. John’s players knew more punishment awaited them in the fourth game Thursday night.

“We felt we played a pretty strong game Wednesday night, but we knew we were going to need more, to come out with a stronger push tonight (Thursday),” said coach Keith McCambridge, who watched his club gut out a 2-1 win for a commanding 3-1 series lead at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“There’s one thing we know very well, and that’s the back-to-back scenarios: you have a very angry team with their result, and us understanding with what it’s going to take and what we’re going to be dealing with.

“They’re a big strong team, a real physical defence. I thought last night’s game was physical. It had nothing on tonight.”

The IceCaps and Penguins banged, crashed and slogged their way through Game 4, and it was St. John’s coming away with the victory on Josh Lunden’s game-winner at 9:19 of the third period, his first of the playoffs.

The IceCaps have an opportunity to advance to their first Calder Cup final – and the second time St. John’s has played in the league championship as an AHL franchise – with a win Saturday night in Game 5 here in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“To get a win makes how we worked here mean something,” said Will O’Neill, who scored his first Calder Cup playoff goal and added an assist for good measure. “Still though, we’ve got a long, long way to go, a long series.

“We got a huge game here Saturday night. But this one was big.”

Both teams went at it hard through the opening 10 minutes, and nary a whistle blew through the first seven minutes as the IceCaps and Penguins banged, crashed and slogged their way through the first period.

A penalty parade, resulting in 10 minors called through 40 minutes, continued in the second, and led to a five-on-three power play for 53 seconds for the IceCaps late in the period. That’s when Jason Megna was nabbed for hooking and Zach Sill picked up a double minor for high-sticking Andrew Gordon.

O’Neill made the Penguins pay when he teed up a shot from the point and beat Peter Mannino cleanly at 19:33 for his first career Calder Cup playoff goal.

O’Neill saw a ton of power play time, especially so since rookie sensation Josh Morrissey was a no-show due to injury. He’s listed as the ol’ day-to-day.

The IceCaps owned the second period, outshooting the Penguins 19-2.

“That was a huge goal to get, especially given how tight checking that game was,” said McCambridge. “Especially half-way through the second period - it felt like it was in overtime.”

It stood 1-0 until 6:48 of the third period when Dumoulin’s shot from the point deflected off Brenden Kichton’s skate past a surprised Michael Hutchinson.

That set the stage for Lunden’s game-winner when, with St. John’s pressing, Lunden skated behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton net and tucked the puck into the far side of the net on a wraparound, his first goal of the playoffs.

Hutchinson stopped 17 shots for the IceCaps. Mannino was very busy for the Penguins, making 29 saves.

Organizations: IceCaps, Penguins, American Hockey League

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Pa.

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