IceCaps are penalty killing it

Robin
Robin Short
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Wilkes-Barre still looking for first power play tally vs. hard-working St. John’s PK units

In the last three games of this Calder Cup post-season series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the St. John’s IceCaps have pumped in six power play goals.
Not bad for a team that was two-for-19 in its American Hockey League first-round playoff series against the Albany Devils.

In the last three games of this Calder Cup post-season series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the St. John’s IceCaps have pumped in six power play goals.

Not bad for a team that was two-for-19 in its American Hockey League first-round playoff series against the Albany Devils.

The IceCaps’ play with the man advantage has been middle of the road overall in the playoffs, but it’s the penalty kill that’s been most impressive as St. John’s enters tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins at Mile One Centre (7:30 p.m., 930AM, Rogers TV and Eastlink).

The St. John’s penalty killing unit is second overall in the league to the Toronto Marlies — who played Game 6 of their Western Conference final series in Texas against the Stars last night — operating at a 90.4 per cent clip (the IceCaps have allowed seven power play goals in 73 chances).

The Penguins have yet to solve the St. John’s penalty killers, going a combined zero-for-27 with the man advantage.

It says the penalty kill starts with the goaltending, and Michael Hutchinson continues to be lights out. Of the four goaltenders left in the Calder Cup playoffs, Hutchinson has the best goals against average (1.72) and second-best save percentage (.942).

Of course, his teammates haven’t been too shabby in front of Hutchinson, limiting scoring chances with dogged determination and superb shot blocking, a brave skill shared by all.

“To be honest,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge, “nothing’s changed. It’s been pretty strong all season (the IceCaps were ninth in that department in the 30-team AHL). We’ve just been able to limit their opportunities.

“I thought Wilkes-Barre had some really good chances the last game. But at the end of the day, we were able to limit them to one shot and take away the second chance.”

The forward pairings of John Albert and Kyle MacKinnon, and Patrice Cormier and Adam Lowry have been outstanding on the kill. Albert has been slumping in the playoffs with only one goal (he potted 28 in 63 games during the regular season), but his play in the PK has been invaluable.

On defence, McCambridge has trotted out Jordan Hill, Ben Chiarot, Kris Fredheim and Zach Redmond.

“Lowry has really good range,” McCambridge said of his 6-4 centre, who enjoyed a very strong rookie season. “He covers two lanes when he has his stick in a good spot. He’s such a big man with a long reach with good range. And the same goes with Patrice Cormier.

“John Albert and Kyle MacKinnon possess speed and quickness. What I’ve tried to do with those four players is keep them consistent. With penalty kills, there are reads that have to take place quickly so the more familiar the players are with each other, the better chance they have to take away the opposition’s (passing and shooting) lanes.”

X’s and O’s aside, perhaps the bottom line to a successful penalty kill is plain, old fashioned hard work, and the IceCaps’ special teams have been excelling in that regard.

“You have to try and out-battle the other players in the corners as much as you can to win those pucks back, and you have to clear out any rebounds,” McCambridge said.

“And very high on the list, whenever you have a breakdown, is you need to have a guy in the lane to try and block that shot.”

As for the Penguins, they find themselves very much in the series despite not a single power play tally.

To their credit, coach John Hynes said, the IceCaps have done a good job shutting down his team.

But the Penguins haven’t helped themselves, either.

“There are certain situations where we could have made better decisions or a little better execution,” Hynes said. “The chances are there, but we definitely have to be better.

“It’s not just about getting chances. We haven’t gotten a ton, but the ones we have had, we haven’t executed. It needs to be better.”

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, Penguins, American Hockey League Toronto Marlies

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Albany, Texas Jordan Hill

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments