No more guessing. The St. John’s IceCaps now know they’ll be facing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League Eastern Conference final.
The Penguins advanced by holding on to beat the Providence Bruins 5-4 in Game 7 of their conference seminal Wednesday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
The best-of-seven series between the IceCaps and Penguins begins with games Saturday and Sunday at Mile One Centre in St. John’s
The IceCaps clinched their berth in the Eastern finale last Friday at Mile One when they knocked off the Norfolk Admirals in Game 6 of their conference seml. St. John’s, the fourth seed in the conference, has home-ice advantage in the matchup with the Pens, the sixth seed.
Games 3, 4 and 5 (the latter if necessary), are set for for Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Wednesday, May 28; Thursday, May 29 and Saturday, May 31. Games 6 and 7, if required, would be played at Mile One Centre Tuesday and Wednesday, June 3-4.
Start times for all games in St. John’s are 7:30 p.m. NT, while those in Wilkes-Barre will begin at 8:35 p.m. NT.
Wednesday night, the Penguins jumped to a 5-0 lead, doing all their scoring in the second period - the five goals coming on eight shots in a six-minute span. However, the P-Bruins battled back with four goals of their own before the halfway mark of the third, but could not find a way to draw even, despite outshooting Wilkes-Barre 13-3 in the final frame.
The IceCaps and Penguins split their four-game season series in 2013-14, each team winning twice in regulation and each posting a victory on the road. They were also even when it came to scoring in their series, both sides tallying nine times.
This will be the second playoff meeting between St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre in the last three seasons. In 2012, the IceCaps’ inaugural season, the teams met in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs, with St. John’s prevailing in seven games in a series that featured three overtime decisions.
The Wilkes-Barre roster has undergone considerable change in the last couple of years, but features some familiar names in goalie Peter Mannino and winger Spencer Machacek, both former IceCaps. The Penguins also have a number of NHL-experienced players, including forwards Tom Kostopoulos, the team’s captain and regular-season leading scorer, and Chuck Kobasew, each whom have played more than 600 big-league games.
Kobasew and fellow forwards Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna and Zach Sill, along with defenceman Simon Despres, are Wilkes-Barre players who suited up for 20 or more games with the parent Pittsburgh Penguins this past season.
The AHL Western Conference final between the Toronto Marlies and Texas Stars begins Friday night in suburban Austin, Tex.