Quest for pro hoops franchise goes into OT
The on-again, off-again pursuit to place pro basketball at Mile One Centre in downtown St. John’s next year appears to have new life with a potential new ownership group in the hoops picture.
Trade between Canadiens and Ducks results in a new winger for St. John's, which begins 2016 home schedule tonight
Dustin Tokarski practised Thursday morning as a St. John’s IceCap. By Thursday afternoon, the veteran netminder was a San Diego Gull.
Tokarski was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Anaheim Ducks for 23-year-old left-winger Max Friberg, a deal no doubt designed to loosen up a goaltending logjam in the Canadiens’ minor league system, and clear out a player Montreal no longer had an interest in keeping.
With Tokarski moving west, the IceCaps recalled Eddie Pasquale from the ECHL’s Brampton Beast. Pasquale has been very good when he’s played for the IceCaps this season, going 5-1-2 with a 2.76 goals against average and .926 save percentage.
The trade of the diminutive goalie from Watson, Sask., who was far from thrilled to be back in the AHL after a full season as Price’s backup in Montreal last year, leaves the Canadiens with five goalies in Montreal and St. John’s — the injured Carey Price, Mike Condon, Ben Scrivens, Zach Fucale and Pasquale, who is on an AHL contract. Either Condon or Scrivens — likely Scrivens — will be reassigned to St. John’s when Price comes off IR.
Friberg, 23, had five goals and 17 points in 25 games for the Gulls, the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, this season. The former world junior champion with Sweden also appeared in five games with Anaheim.
In 169 career AHL games, Friberg has 38 goals and 60 assists.
It’s the second trade by Montreal involving players from the IceCaps. Last month, Montreal dealt Christian Thomas to the Arizona Coyotes for Lucas Lessio.
Given Montreal’s record of late, chances are general manager Marc Bergevin is not done dealing.
Friberg, who is making a 5,600-kilometre trip from southern California to Newfoundland, the longest possible journeyv within the AHL, is not expected to be in the IceCaps’ lineup tonight when St. John’s takes on Portland in the first of two games against the Pirates (930 AM, stjohnsicecaps.com, Rogers TV).
It’s the first homestand of the new year for the IceCaps, who opened the post-Christmas portion of their schedule with a five-game road trip, in which they won two games and lost three, one via a shootout.
The IceCaps are back on home ice, where they’ve lost only once in regulation time. The downside, however, is they’ve lost four games in OT, and one in the shootout.
“I’m not overly worried because I know that any game which went into OT, I know we had chance to win,” said St. John’s coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “Having said that, we did go into OT where we had leads. I’m more worried about that because when you get into the playoffs, there are no three-on-three overtimes.
“If you have a one-goal lead, you have to be able to close the book, and we’ve been a lot better at that lately.”
In their last game, Sunday in Utica, N.Y. against the Comets, the IceCaps scored two goals five minutes in for a 2-0 lead. After Utica drew to within one goal mid-way through the opening 20 minutes, the IceCaps held the Comets at bay until Brandon McNally scored his first of the season for the insurance marker early in the third for a 3-1 decision.
In a 5-4 win over the Marlies in Toronto Dec. 27, St. John’s came back from a 3-1 deficit halfway through the second period.
Lessio has two goals and three assists in the six games he’s skated as an IceCap. Tonight’s game will be Michael Bournival’s 10th as an IceCap, and while he has only one goal, the veteran of 89 NHL games with the Canadiens is rounding into form.
Prior to his arrival in St. John’s, Bournival had not played since last March after suffering a concussion.
“He brings a lot to the team,” Lefebvre said of Bournival, “a lot of speed and energy. But I think his game could be better, especially in the structure, in playmaking. He rushes his plays a bit too much, but I think that’s a timing thing which comes with being away from the game for a while.”
Game time tonight and Saturday is 7:30.
Tokarski was 1-3-0 in six appearances with the Montreal Canadiens this season, with a 3.19 goals against average and a .878 save percentage. He was 3-3-4 for the IceCaps, with a 2.84 GAA and .909 save percentage ... Friberg led the 2012 world junior hockey championship with nine goals, and finished tied for second in points with 11. Friberg was named to the tournament all-star team .. Rookie defenceman Ryan Johnston, who has yet to play, and first-year forward Nikita Scherbak are close to coming off IR. Both are expected to participate in full practices next week ... Markus Eisenschmid was hurt in practice this week, but could be ready tonight. If he’s not, Lefebvre will go with either Eric Neilson or Tim Bozon, or dress seven defencemen ... Look for these line combinations:
• Michael McCarron-Gabriel Dumont-Michael Bournival
• Charles Hudon-Bud Holloway-Lucas Lessio
• Jacob de la Rose-Mark MacMillan-Stefan Fournier
• Markus Eisenschmid-Brandon McNally-Jeremy Gregoire