IceCaps still tops despite rocky start to road trip

After losing back-to-back overtime games on the road, the St. John’s IceCaps remain at the top of the Atlantic Division with thirteen points. Of course, the Providence Bruins (their most recent opponent) remain at their heels, but the Caps enjoy a game in hand (10GP) and two point lead for now.

Though they’ve lost three straight overall, the IceCaps have done nothing to really bring about panic. They’ve lost two games in the extra frame, but have outshot their opponents by putting up over 40 shots per game – something they’ve done regularly this season.

As long as the team continues to pepper the net and create chances, they should come out on the right end of the decision regularly. And two points in two games on the road? Not so bad.

Now that October has come to an end, it’s time to start seeing what this team is really made of. It’s been a solid start for the IceCaps, but as most hockey fans are well aware, November and December start to really sort things out and separate contenders from pretenders. We’re hoping, of course, that the IceCaps continue to show they can be the latter.

Tuesday night will see the IceCaps face a divisional foe, the Worcester Sharks, for the first time this season. The Sharks have only played six games so far this season, but have yet to lose outside of the shootout (4-0-0-2).

Check in tomorrow for a game day preview as the IceCaps hit the halfway mark on this road-trip.

Weekend Transaction News: Jets recall Mannino, MacLean claimed by Coyotes

StJohnsIceCaps.com - The Team's Official Website

As per Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, The Winnipeg Jets have recalled goaltender Peter Mannino from the IceCaps to fill the void left on the team by the injured Chris Mason. Mannino has played in 4 games for the IceCaps this season, posting a .902 save percentage and a 2.47 G.A.A. to go 2-2. Mannino is expected to backup the Jets current starter, Ondrej Pavelec. While he is only expected to be with the team for 1 game, there is always the possibility that his stay could be extended, depending on the severity of Mason’s groin injury. He will certainly however, rejoin the IceCaps in the near future.

Yahoo! Sports

In other news, the Jets placed LW Brett MacLean on waivers yesterday afternoon, and he was claimed by the Phoenix Coyotes today. If MacLean had cleared waivers, he would have joined the IceCaps, just as Aaron Gagnon did earlier this week.

MacLean has registered 2 assists and 6 shots in 5 games with the Jets this season. In his last AHL season (2010-2011) he scored 23 goals and 27 assists in 51 games for the former Phoenix Coyotes farm team, San Antonio Rampage

With the Jets having such a rough start to the season, these roster moves are not at all unexpected. They are also not going to be the only ones, so keep your eyes and ears open for more news about future transactions that will see Jets become IceCaps and vice versa.

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

Aaron Gagnon clears Waivers, Will join IceCaps

From TSN’s Hockey Insider, Bob McKenzie (via Twitter):

WPG puts Aaron Gagnon on waiver. / WPG’s Gagnon was on injured reserve to start the season. Healthy now, needs waivers to be sent to AHL.

Gagnon, a 5’10”, 185lb, 25-year-old centre, has yet to play a game with the Winnipeg Jets this season because he has been recovering from an injury he suffered this past season when he was part of the Dallas Stars organization.

In 222 AHL games (with the Iowa Stars, Grand Rapids Griffins, and most recently the Texas Stars) he has registered 49 goals and 66 assists for a total of 115 points (0.52ppg).

Scouting reports have described Gagnon as a defensively-minded forward with a knack for winning faceoffs. It should be interesting to see where Gagnon would fit in the current IceCaps lineup.

*UPDATE* from Ken Wiebe (@WiebeSunSports) of the Winnipeg Sun:

#winnipegjets announce C Aaron Gagnon has been assigned to St johns IceCaps after clearing waivers on Friday.

What do you think about your newest IceCap?
Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

Pirates down IceCaps 5-2 to split pair

McElhinney

After a whale of a victory last night for the IceCaps, the Portland Pirates responded tonight with a 5-2 win of their own at Mile One Centre. Portland goaltender Curtis McElhinney stopped 40 shots in the win. Contributing tonight’s game recap is one of my best friends and certainly my Twitter sparring partner, Charles Pickett (@Pickett2112) – season ticket holder, and somebody you should definitely follow for live game coverage:

Game 7 – Splitsville

The St. John’s IceCaps knew they needed to keep the momentum going into tonight’s game in order to come out on top and pick up 2 big insurance points within the Atlantic Division.

Despite a brief sluggish start out the gate, the IceCaps did well keeping that intensity up but found themselves down 1-0 to the Pirates after the first period after Ashton (not to be confused with Aaron) Rome sends one behind Mannino late in the period.

Heading into the 2nd, we saw a different IceCaps team take the ice. After some serious cycle time it looked as if the IceCaps were in the drivers seat. Just a handful of minutes in, AHL vet Shawn Weller was rewarded with his first goal of the season putting one up on the powerplay and tying things at 1-1. Less than 8 minutes later St John’s center and Newfoundland’s own Jason King also found the back of the net with his 5th goal of the season.

The IceCaps had a great chance to keep the pedal down on the Pirates immediately after the King goal midway through the 2nd with two chances on the PP, when the Portland defender Arsene took a tripping call. The PP looked re-charged tonight and got off to a quick start with the goal by Weller, but late in the 2nd they couldn’t get things clicking again. It looks like the IceCaps are trying to change the PP system and there have even been some new line combos with Clark getting some time with Jaffray and King on the top line, but once again, they still really couldn’t get much going on the PP tonight, going 1/7.

The Pirates quickly turned things around to start the 3rd period off of a quick play by Pouliot. Later in the period a jam play from Mathieu Beaudoin gave Portland their first lead since the 1sr period putting them up 3-2.

After the Beaudoin play, the IceCaps got into penalty trouble. Despite how strong the PK has looked so far this young season, Kyle Chipchura  made no mistake about it putting Portland up 4-2. Portland would go on to add an empty netter to make the final score 5-2.

A loss is never quite easy to get over, and with a lengthy road trip looming for the IceCaps, there are still several tweaks to be made. But overall their game is a pretty solid, straight forward one. Their cycle down low tonight was very strong and once again they peppered the opposition with over 40 shots.

Throughout the game there were a lot of chances that went by the wayside, including a partial break away by new fan favorite Carl Klingberg. He didn’t bury it, but drew a penalty on the play after getting the slash. Also somewhere in there Mark Flood rang one off the post.

By taking a glass-half-full mentality, a quick glance at the standings should tell us that this one loss should not be a cause for concern.

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

Game Day: IceCaps v. Pirates Round II

The IceCaps and Portland Pirates are set to do battle again this evening at Mile One Centre in St John’s. Coming off a 5-1 thumping of the Pirates last evening, the IceCaps look to continue their winning ways and go on the road with their heads well above water.

Ryan Hollweg should slot back into the lineup tonight for the Pirates after serving a one-game suspension last night. Hollweg was suspended by the AHL yesterday for a high-sticking incident against Providence this weekend.

Some fisticuffs tonight, perhaps?

The IceCaps will look to build on a powerplay that showed some flashes in last night’s game, going 2 for 11 (18%). Look for things to cool down a little for the Pirates who took penalty after penalty last night and paid for it. The IceCaps weren’t much better, being sent off for seven of their own. Hopefully both teams will stay out of the box and keep the game flowing.

Look for Carl Klingberg to possibly bounce back with a big game for the IceCaps tonight. He was somewhat invisible in last night’s tilt, failing to register a shot on net. But it perhaps looks like this guy could be the type to score in bunches. You can check out my column about him at the Illegal Curve.

Game goes at 7:30 NL time at Mile One Centre and can be heard online. Brian Rogers has the call at thisisnewfoundlandandlabrador.ca

Enjoy

IceCaps get powerplay on track, slam Pirates

IceCaps v. Pirates

Edward Pasquale made his IceCaps debut between the pipes Tuesday night in front of a packed Mile One Centre, and didn’t disappoint. The home team used a second period flurry and a couple of powerplay markers to nab a 5-1 victory, and moved to a 5-1-1 record overall.

A pair of powerplay markers from Riley Holzapfel and Jason King in the second frame moved the IceCaps powerplay ranking, well, absolutely nowhere. They’re still dead last in the league in that department at only 7.5% efficiency, but tonight was perhaps what the team needed to finally get clicking with the man advantage going forward.

I had the opportunity to take the game in from the press box tonight. While keeping a close eye on the powerplay, it was noticeable that the IceCaps are still employing the strategy of finding defencemen for the open point shot and diving on rebounds. They’re passing down low could still use some work, but it’s certainly getting better.

The Pirates, on the other hand, move the puck to the wings much better and stay away from the cross-blueline pass as much as possible while on the powerplay.

This was a tough game for both teams in terms of penalty trouble. The Pirates were sent to the box 11 times, while the IceCaps went off for seven. The first period of this game lacked any flow, and the Pirates capitalized on some early powerplays to grab the 1-0 lead.

The second period was a totally different story. The IceCaps’ players got their legs under them and began to showcase their speed a little more, and John Albert scored his first ever goal at the professional level just four minutes into the frame to notch things at 1-1.

As the game began to open up, the IceCaps drew a few penalties themselves and capitalized to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Both powerplay goals came off rebounds in tight, blatantly what the IceCaps were looking for.

In the third, Brian Festerling notched his first goal of the season early on to put this game to bed. Travis Ramsey later added his first as well, and Pasquale made a few good saves down the stretch to keep things at 5-1 and give himself a .965 Sv% on the night. Impressive.

Shots during the game favored the IceCaps 41-29 in total.

Game two of this mid-week set goes tomorrow night at Mile One. I’ll have the Game Day preview up tomorrow and will be up in the press box once again to cover the action. Follow the blog on twitter for in-game updates and analysis.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow on twitter

IceCaps Game Day: Arghhh! Here come the Pirates

The St. John’s IceCaps take to the ice tonight for a weeknight divisional match-up against the Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes affiliate). Struggling (somewhat) out of the gate, the Pirates will be looking to pull their record to .500 as they currently sit at 2-3-0-1. It won’t be easy, as they’re missing arguably the best player from their lineup, Andy Miele, who was recalled to Phoenix over the weekend and will remain with the big club for now.

It’s quite obvious that this is a big game for the IceCaps. They’ll want to establish themselves early against these divisional clubs and hopefully keep a stranglehold on the Atlantic throughout the season.

A familiar face will be back in St. John’s tonight when Brock Trotter takes to the ice for the Pirates. IceCaps fans got a chance to see Trotter, a solid offensive player, when he suited up for the Hamilton Bulldogs on opening weekend. Since then, the Canadiens and Coyotes completed a trade that sent him to Portland and he’ll make his second trip to Newfoundland in as many weeks.

Beaudoin

Trotter is a player to watch out for, but winger Mathieu Beaudoin is also a premiere player for the Pirates. He’s notched 4 points in six games this season and led his team in scoring (51 points in 63 games played) last season as a member of the San Antonio Rampage, the previous affiliate of the Coyotes. Since then, the Pirates have changed hands from the Buffalo Sabres to become Phoenix’s farm club, while the Rochester Americans are now the Sabres’ affiliate. Musical chairs.

The IceCaps have been stingy when it comes to giving up goals. Right now they sit at 14GA through six games, but on the other side of the puck their powerplay continues to struggle. And by struggle, I mean, is basically non-existent. The team sits dead last in the league for powerplay efficiency with only one goal in 29 attempts with the man advantage. That’s 3.4%. Ugly.

The fact that they’ve managed such a great record (4-1-1-0) during this span is unbelievable. But if things don’t start to click soon, the losses will come.

Puck movement along the point has been a breeze, but the powerplay unit lacks punch down low. Even strength, they tend to use their speed to generate chances, as is evident with Carl Klingberg’s quick feet and huge goal total, but they really need to start burying chances in close on the PP. It won’t be easy against the Pirates, they’re 8th in the league right now, killing off 87% of their penalties. It’s early of course, but just don’t expect any favors from Portland in busting the PP slump.

The powerplay isn’t an area where the Pirates struggle either, they’ve been a respectful 21.9% on the year so far for 12th league-wide. The IceCaps will really have to bring their game tonight to get the two points.

Game goes at 7:30 Newfoundland time at Mile One Centre, and can be heard on the radio online at thisisnewfoundlandandlabrador.ca

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow the page on Twitter @SJ_IceCaps

Breaking: Mark Scheifele returned to Junior

Well, this isn’t exactly “breaking news” in the true sense of the phrase, but the Winnipeg Jets (parent franchise of your St. John’s IceCaps) have returned 18-year-old pre-season phenom Mark Scheifele to the Barrie Colts of the OHL.

After a remarkable pre-season in which he dominated play and appeared to set himself apart from the rest of the 2011 NHL draft class (aside from the red-hot Oilers prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), Scheifele has struggled since the regular season began, scoring only 1 goal in his first 7 NHL games.

Sending an 18-year-old back to his junior team is very rarely a bad thing. This gives Scheifele a chance to further develop his game so that the next time the Jets come calling in the future, he will be better suited for professional play – whether that be with the Jets, or indeed with the IceCaps.

It will be interesting to see how other teams who have 2011 first rounders on their roster respond now that Scheifele has been returned to Junior. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado), Adam Larsson (New Jersey), Mika Zibanejad (Ottawa), and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia) are the other 2011 first rounders who are still with their respective NHL teams.

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter

IceCaps Game Day: Sound Tigers in town

Today’s Game Preview was put together by Charles Pickett, an IceCaps season ticket holder with a knack for breaking down the game. Follow him at Pickett2112 on Twitter for IceCaps news and opinion.

Game 5

The IceCaps return to action after a lengthy break in game play over the last week taking on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight at Mile One.

The Sound Tigers (New York Islanders’ affiliate) have been a bit sluggish out the gate this season, picking up only 4 out of a possible 10 points so far with both wins having come on the road. Meanwhile the IceCaps look to keep things rolling tonight after a 6-2 shellacking of the Hamilton Bulldogs last Saturday.

DiBenedetto

Bridgeport winger Justin DiBenedetto is going to be a player to watch tonight and could be a serious threat, scoring 5 goals in 5 games to start the season. The scouting report on DiBenedetto breaks him down as a defensive first player who can cycle the puck and eat away time in the offensive zone. He’s got a impressive shot selection and isn’t afraid to go to the messy areas either.

On the IceCaps side of things, look for Carl Klingberg to try and stay red-hot after an impressive outing last weekend, picking up the first hat trick in franchise history on Saturday night.

Last weekend we saw the IceCaps split goaltending duties between veteran netminder David Aebischer and Peter Mannino. I’d look for a similar situation this weekend, but possibly with Abbie taking the crease on Saturday night.

Mannino

Despite splitting the two games last weekend there are still some things the IceCaps had to go to work on this week, none more importantly than the powerplay. I can’t find anything online or in the papers to suggest that the IceCaps will sport a new look powerplay with possible personnel changes, or if they will use the same format to try and break the goose egg tonight. Last weekend they had their fair share of chances, but ran into a sharp goaltender.

A win tonight would give the IceCaps and edge over the Manchester Monarchs for the Atlantic Division lead. The Monarchs are currently tied with the IceCaps with 6 points on the season.

Puck drop tonight is at 7:30 and you can catch it all at Mile One Centre.

If you weren’t lucky enough to grab tickets you can watch tonight’s game on Rogers TV in the St John’s area or even Listen Live at theahl.com.

Follow Pickett2112 on Twitter

A few pictures from Saturday night

Just figured I’d share some pictures I took on Saturday during the IceCaps-Bulldogs game (a 6-2 IceCaps win).

Go ahead and click to see the full-size image.