It’s the time of the year when hockey teams do all they can to hide their hurt and pain.
And that’s not just the flesh and bone kind.
If you had surveyed 6,000-plus disappointed St. John’s IceCaps fans as they exited Mile One Centre after Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the American Hockey League final at Mile One Centre — won 2-1 in overtime by the Texas Stars — you would have assuredly heard a lot about a quick whistle early in the extra frame that denied, what for a split-second at least, looked like a winning goal by the St. John’s winger Josh Lunden.
But the IceCaps themselves were not nearly as interested in talking about what might have been when it came to that play. Whether by design or by some shared realization they need to look ahead and not behind, they sloughed up whatever measure of disappointment they were feeling.
Que sera, sera was the mantra in post-game comments.
It all happened about three minutes into OT, when IceCaps’ rookie forward Adam Lowry moved down the right side in the Stars’ end against defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka and managed to one-hand the puck towards the Texas goal. Stars’ netminder Cristopher Nisltorp put his glove down to freeze the play, Lowry’s stick quickly came in and the puck squirted free to Lunden, who sent it into a wide-open net from the lip of the crease. But referee Dave Lewis, in position from the right corner, had already blown the whistle, ending the play.
The fans, as would be expected, booed and jeered. Lunden, other IceCaps and had coach Keith McCambridge looked for explanation as to what just had —or hadn’t — happened. The game went on, and four minutes later, Stars forward Travis Morin — who, in the playoffs, has maintained the form that earned him the league’s regular-season MVP honours — redirected a Brendan Ranford feed past St. John’s Michael Hutchinson for a goal that has Texas up 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 Monday night at Mil One.
After the game, as McCambridge addressed the media, he certainly didn’t do so on while on simmer.
The first question McCambridge took was about the waved-off goal and he immediately responded that he thought it was “A good call by the ref,” although he later allowed he had told Lewis that he thought it had ben a “quick whistle," at last compared to a play in the first period when Hutchinson froze the puck and the whistle was little longer coming.
But that was it. McCambridge had obviously moved on. And so, apparently, had his players.
“It was a quick whistle, but I heard it,” said Lunden. “It was more of a reaction play when I saw the puck sitting there (and the) open net. I shot it about half a second after the whistle. I didn’t see what happened with covering up the puck. I just saw a loose puck.
“I didn’t see him (Nilstorp) cover it all. I just saw the puck pop out. That was it.”
At the end of the game, St. John’s captain Jason Jaffray was seen in an extended conversation with he men in stripes, but according to him, not about the waved-off goal.
Jaffray was having his say about a play just before the Morin game-winner, when the IceCaps’ Andrew Gordon was “smoked from behind” as he got primed for a one-timer that he never got off. The St. John’ captain felt there could have been a penalty on the play, especially considering one that had been called on the IceCaps’ Patrice Cormier earlier in OT, a hooking minor for a one-handed tug in the defensive zone.
“It wasn’t a yelling match,” Jaffray said about his tete-a-tete with the refs. “All in all, I thought they reffed a pretty good game for most of the hockey game.
“I just think it was tough to see where that penalty (against Cormier) was. A very questionable call in overtime in the Calder Cup final, so you might think they give us a make-up call (on the hit on Gordon), when we’re going down on a three-on-two one way and they don’t make the call and they end up going four-on-two the other way.
“I know (the refs) never want to be the factor in a game-winning goal and I know they’re disappointed how it ended up.
“But like I said, I thought they had a pretty good game. I’m not putting the blame on anybody but ourselves.”
In that regard, Jaffray especially cited the IceCaps’ failure on the power-play, which was zero-for-five Wednesday and hasn’t produced anything in 10 opportunities in the series.
“And overall, we certainly had our chances tonight, especially late in the third period and in overtime,” said Jaffray.
One of those opportunities saw Cormier sprung free on a breakaway after serving that overtime hooking minor, only to be thwarted by Nilstorp and a puck that never really settled down.
And in a demonstration of how he and the IceCaps are determined to suppress any hankering to sulk, Jaffray pointed out , “He never would have got that breakaway if he hadn’t taken that penalty, right?”
Game 4 is Monday night at Mile One as the series, after seeing three games in four nights and a travel day that featured a seven-hour flight between Austin, Tex. and St. John's, takes an extended break while Mile One hosts a medical conference/trade show ... Stars’ heard coach Willie Desjardins’ take on the waved-off goal in overtime? He agreed obviously, but also thought that there could have been a penalty call on Adam Lowry for slashing when he got his stick in on Cristopher Nilstorp’s glove … Kael Mouillierat had the lone goal for St. John’s, deflecting a feed-in from Zach Redmond midway through the third period. It was Mouillierat’s third goal in as many games in the final … Brett Ritchie had the Texas goal in regulation, beating Michael Hutchinson through the legs on a rebound with about four minutes left in the second period … Hutchinson’s best saves Wednesday came against the players who scored the Texas goals; Travis Morin was denied by a superb glove-hand stop in the first period, while Ritchie was flabbergasted in overtime, when he was stoned by Hutchinson even though the St. John’s goalie was seemingly out of position, sitting in his crease … Morin leads all playoff scorers with 19 points (seven goals, 12 assist) in 19 games ... Caps’ defenceman Jordan Hill did not play Wednesday because of an undisclosed injury. He was replaced by Kris Fredheim … St. John's coach Keith McCambridge enthused about how engaged the fans were at Mile One Wednesday. "I thought, right from the anthems on, it’s the loudest I heard it,” he said. “Obviously, we’re well aware off all the sell-outs that take place here, about how knowledgeable these fans are in a great Canadian market, but I thought you could really feeling the electricity (tonight). And on the bench, for the players, you could sense they realized it was something special" … The Molson Canadian three stars in Game 3: 1.Nilstorp, Tex. (31 saves) 2. Hutchinson, SJs (34 saves) 3. Morin (GWG) … The Mary Brown’s hardest-working IceCap: Redmond …