01/09: IceCaps Weekly
IceCaps reclaim first place with weekend sweep of Manchester Monarchs.
In perhaps the biggest series of the year to date, the St. John’s IceCaps came up huge on the ice.
Trailing the Manchester Monarchs by one point heading into the two-game weekend series, the IceCaps reeled off consecutive comeback victories to vault themselves back into top spot in the Atlantic Conference.
St. John’s received a boost Friday night with the return of rugged winger Shawn Weller, who missed 10 games with an upper body injury. Weller scored twice – once to tie the game at two in the second period, and again to give the IceCaps the lead in the third period, a goal that stood as the game-winner. Captain Jason Jaffray put the game out of reach with his ninth goal of the season with less than a minute to play, and added an assist on Jason DeSantis’s power play goal in the middle frame. Defenceman Travis Ramsey chipped in with a pair of assists, while David Aebischer made 23 saves in the win, a game that saw the IceCaps trail 2-0 but come all the way back to pick up the two points.
Saturday’s contest was a seesaw affair, but it was the IceCaps that came out on top once again. The Monarchs opened the scoring for the second night in a row, but Spencer Machacek tied it up early in the second period on a terrific solo effort. Jason Gregoire gave the home side the lead in the third, and the IceCaps looked to be cruising until DeSantis took a slashing penalty with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. The Monarchs got the equalizer on the ensuing power play with 2:31 left on the clock, and the game appeared headed for overtime. However, John Albert played the role of hero and ignited the 18th straight capacity crowd at Mile One Centre, snapping home a wrist shot for the game-winning goal with 42 seconds to play.
The series sweep was just the second of the season for St. John’s at home, and first since beating the Connecticut Whale on back-to-back nights Nov. 12 and 13. The four points gave the IceCaps a three-point advantage over the Monarchs atop the Atlantic Division with four games in hand, and moved them to within two points of the Hershey Bears for first overall in the Eastern Conference.
Also last week, defencemen Paul Postma and Zach Redmond were named to the Eastern Conference team for the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic as representatives from the IceCaps. Postma, 22, is tied for the team lead in scoring, and is third in scoring among league defencemen with 27 points (6g, 19a) in 28 games. Redmond, 23, is in his first full season in the AHL and has 15 points with a plus-9 rating, playing in all 34 games for St. John’s this season. The defencemen join head coach Keith McCambridge, who was selected to lead the Eastern Conference team due to his club’s conference best winning percentage.
The IceCaps continue their six-game homestand with four games in six days this week. The Toronto Marlies come to Mile One Centre for the second and final time Tuesday and Wednesday, concluding a stretch that saw the two teams play seven times in the IceCaps’ past 18 games. Toronto leads the season series with a 3-1-1-0 record, and took three of a possible four points during a two-game set at Ricoh Coliseum Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The Marlies’ other visit to St. John’s came back on Nov. 25 and 26, with the visitors taking both games at Mile One. Toronto dropped a 4-1 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs Saturday, but had won three straight previously and remain in top spot in the North Division, third in the Western Conference.
On Saturday and Sunday, the IceCaps welcome the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for their only visit to Newfoundland this season, and the first meetings between the teams in IceCaps franchise history. The Penguins sit third in the East Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference with 43 points.
- Hot Hand: G David Aebischer has enjoyed an incredible run since the beginning of December. Dating back to his Dec. 2 start in Hamilton, Aebischer has gone 8-0-1 with a 1.96 GAA and a .927 SV%, solidifying himself as the team’s number-one goaltender.
- Selling Out: The two capacity crowds this weekend vs. Manchester gave the IceCaps 18 consecutive sellouts to start the season, the third longest streak in the last decade. The only longer streaks during that time were both by the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, who sold out 54 straight games from Dec. 2000 to Feb. 2002 and 90 consecutive contests from March 2002 to Oct. 2004.
- ‘Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City’: Defencemen Paul Postma and Zach Redmond were selected to represent the IceCaps on the Eastern Conference team at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic Jan. 29-30 in Atlantic City, NJ. The pair will join Keith McCambridge, who was named head coach for the Eastern Conference as a result of the IceCaps having the top winning percentage in the conference as of the Jan. 1 cut-off date.
- Keep it Out: The IceCaps are a perfect 13-0-0-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer.
- Special Teams Update: The IceCaps went 1-for-5 on the PP this weekend and rank 8th in the AHL with the man advantage (20.5%). The penalty killing unit allowed two goals on seven chances, and sits 18th overall (80.4%).