St. John’s IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray sets up next to Texas Stars’ captain Maxime Fortunus in front of Stars netminder Cristopher Nilstorp in Game 3 of the teams’ American Hockey League Calder Cup final Thursday night at Mile One Centre. Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is tonight, 7:30., in St. John’s. The Stars lead the series 2-1.
©— Photo by Colin Peddle/St. John’s IceCaps.
Knowing they’ll have a fully-charged building, the St. John’s IceCaps are determined to immediately turn on the switch and get the electricity running for tonight’s Game 4 of the American Hockey League Calder Cup final.
They don’t want a repeat of Thursday, when the Texas Stars dominated the opening two periods en route to a 2-1 overtime win that has them up two games to one in the best-of-seven series.
In that one, the IceCaps finally got rolling in the third, tied the game and had their chances to win, but tonight, they want more of a start-to-finish performance.
“And it’s not so much scoring the first goal, but building off some of the good things we did in the third period and overtime (Thursday), just getting our feet moving early and taking advantage of what our fans bring and keeping them engaged,” said St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge after a team practice Sunday morning at Twin Rinks.
“And when you get that first goal, the energy provided from Mile One is something you can build off, without a doubt.”
McCambridge went so far to say Mile One was as loud as he’s heard it in three years at the start of Thursday’s game, but IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray credits the Stars with playing a superb playoff road game and finding the mute button.
“That’s why they were the best team in the league this season. They frustrate the heck out of teams, and through the first two periods, that’s exactly what they were doing to us. They were handing to it us. The first two periods weren’t exciting for anybody to watch and it was tough to watch from the bench also,” said Jaffray.
“I mean everyone was so excited through the national anthem and then, they (the Stars) just frustrated us and the crowd got frustrated, too. You could hear a pin drop in that arena through the first two periods.
“They didn’t give us much, so we had get to the point where we decided to take it for ourselves.
“So we can do it, but it has to be from the opening face-off.”
According to Jaffray, the epiphany that led to Thursday’s third-period turnaround didn’t come about through quiet resolve.
“Guys were actually chirping at each other on the bench and chirping at each other in the dressing room,” he said.
“That’s not really part of our team, but this is an intense time, and things calmed down between the second and third.
“A couple of guys just had to stand up and calm everybody down and put everyone back in their place.”
And put things in perspective.
One way was to point at the scoreboard and to goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who had stopped 25 of 26 shots through 40 minutes.
“For as bad as the first two periods had gone for us, we were still down by just one goal in a game in a Calder Cup final, with Hutchinson giving us a chance to win,” said Jaffray.
“We had an opportunity, so the message was ‘Let’s get excited by this’ and it showed in the third. We showed what we can do, now the challenge is to do that from the start.”
McCambridge was aware of the chagrin and annoyance his team was experiencing Thursday. He could hear the talk on the bench, but wasn’t overly concerned.
“Players discussing plays on the bench or in between periods in the dressing room, that’s common. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with that,” he said.
“But in high intensity games like we’re playing now, that talk can get a little more intense, too, and there are times you need to catch your breath, and regroup and refocus. That’s all part of being in the fourth and final round.
“And actually, you want that kind of intensity. You want guys engaged in the game and on their toes. That’s part of playing hockey in the middle of June. Players are dialed in and care … there’s nothing wrong with that.
“And anyway, I know — and everyone who has watched them this season knows — this is a group that will find a way, just like they did (Thursday).
“It’s a group that definitely has no quit to them. They’ve never shown any quit all year, so you certainly wouldn’t expect it now.”
Notes: McCambridge says a decision on the Game 4 status of defenceman Jordan Hill, who didn’t play Thursday because of an undisclosed injury, will be made this morning … With four full days off between Games 3 and 4, both teams spent a day — the Stars on Friday and IceCaps on Saturday — on boat tours. “We saw a giant iceberg and couple of whales,” said Jaffray, who reported “just a couple of weak stomachs” on the boat, which also carried, wives, girlfriends and visiting family and friends. “Even the guys who weren’t originally that interested in doing it … once they got out there, it was a different story. Once you are there are see those sorts of things up close, you realize you’re probably never going to see that again unless you’re in Newfoundland this time of the year” … Father’s Day was made more special for Jaffray’s as his wife Michelle and children Kennedy and Jaxon were back in St. John’s after having returned to their home in Alberta earlier this spring, but the veteran forward got an unexpected surprise over the weekend with a number of other visitors. His sister and brother-in-law, Ashley and Ryan Bresden and his two-year-old nephew Owen, arrived in town unannounced along with two of his closest friends — Dusty Graham and Mark Hammer — and their wives. “It means a lot to have them here, especially my sister, She always said they would be here if we made it to the final, but she’s just in the middle of selling a house — and you know what that can be like. So it’s very special.”