True North happy in St. John’s for now

This article was originally posted at Arctic Ice Hockey yesterday. Since then, some more news has broken regarding the IceCaps – True North will not sell the team to Danny Williams in the future and will keep control of things themselves. It’s a smart move from their perspective. For the full story, head on over to The Telegram.

Image: Sportsnet

News broke yesterday morning of the relationship between St. John’s IceCaps management and True North carrying on past their original three-year agreement. It’s no real surprise, the team has been doing well and attendance is at its max. Tickets are a little more expensive than in other AHL buildings, but it seems to have little to no effect as Mile One Centre is jammed every time the IceCaps take to the ice.

From Robin Short at The Telegram (St. John’s):

Barring any major surprises, St. John’s IceCaps CEO Danny Williams and True North Sports and Entertainment will soon sign off on a one-year extension on their existing three-year lease, and start negotiating for additional years keeping the American Hockey League team in St. John’s.

“It’s just a matter of both parties agreeing, and it just happens,” Williams said of the contract extension. “I would be inclined to think that it’s a given.

When rumblings of an AHL club returning to the island began this past summer, it was speculated that Thunder Bay was also a location pushing hard to make its way into the league as soon as possible.

Williams addressed that as well.

“Thunder Bay was a competitive threat a while ago, but there’s no activity there now and even if there was, I don’t see a rink being ready in time,” Williams said.

“I’m very optimistic that certainly we will be going into the fourth year, and after that we’ll consider where we go from there.

“But I don’t think Winnipeg wants to move anywhere else. And we’re very happy with the relationship.”

I noticed this news resulted in some fan aggression over the social media, basically calling out “haters” or naysayers for complaining about ticket prices and questioning the viability of pro hockey back here in St. John’s.

I couldn’t be happier, personally, with the new arrival of the AHL and all that comes with it. This city is buzzing on the weekends when the Caps are in action, and I could see how some would become defensive over even a slight inkling that the team would be threatened. But let’s not forget that this team is winning games, a lot of games.

The same fans that fill Mile One on a Tuesday night in midst of a winning streak (in the IceCaps’ inaugural season, mind you) may find better things to do if the team slides to the middle of the pack or goes on to become a basement club in the next three years.

Selling out a building to hockey-starved fans is one thing, doing it for years in succession is obviously another.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com or follow on twitter @rfancey3 or @sj_icecaps

IceCaps barely above water in St. John’s

Image: Jeff Parsons / stjohnsicecaps.com

If you take a look at the standings in the AHL right now, you might be surprised to notice that the St. John’s IceCaps are still among the league’s better clubs and are currently holding down the Atlantic Division lead midway through the season. It’s something we weren’t prepared for here on the Rock, since the team came together so quickly and it was hard to gauge future success on half of a Chicago Wolves lineup from last season.

The IceCaps have been a pleasant surprise, and no doubt they’ve earned the praise they get in this city. But recently they’ve struggled to put it on display for their fans, and if you take a closer look, things almost seem backwards.

You may or may not have heard that the IceCaps have been great on the road. That’s putting it lightly. This team didn’t lose a game in regulation until 2012, a 3-1 loss to the Marlies on New Year’s Day. Since then they’ve returned for a lengthy home stand, and despite two enormous wins against Division contender Manchester, have gone on to drop 3 of last four games against Toronto and WBS, respectively.

Right now there isn’t much to worry about in the grand scheme, the IceCaps still hold down the Atlantic by five points over Worcester (the Monarchs have now slipped a little). But looking at their home vs. road records, it’s pretty bizarre.

The IceCaps are barely afloat on home ice, with a 10-9-3 record at Mile One Centre. For a team with the second best win percentage in the Conference, you would expect better. On the road they’re lights out, sporting a ridiculous 12-1-3, baffling.

If we look deeper things become a little clearer (or maybe murkier, I’m not sure). The Caps have allowed 80 goals on home ice, giving them a -5 goal differential, and an average of 3.6 goals allowed per game over 22 played. On the road they’ve been stingy, giving up only 2.25 goals on average over 16 games played and boasting a +22 goal differential.

It would be great if we could chalk this up to tougher competition on home ice, but it simply isn’t the case (the schedule is pretty balanced.) The Marlies, for example, are one of the league’s weaker road teams, and they’ve owned the Caps in St. John’s.

For a team that has recently reached a major attendance milestone, you would expect some better performances on home ice.

I’d expect things to even out a little one way or another in the next little while. Obviously this amazing road record can’t be sustained, and I doubt the team is actually as bad on home ice as they’ve showed recently. However, if things don’t begin to improve here in St. John’s, we could start to see a slip.

The club now heads on the road for it’s next six games, two weeks away from Mile One Centre. Right now I’m unsure as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com or follow on twitter @rfancey3 or @SJ_IceCaps

King of the Arctic: IceCaps vs Penguins

ingoalmag.com

The IceCaps will take on a unfamiliar foe tonight in the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins.

Heading into tonight’s game the IceCaps have won three of the last four contests and have  nearly all aspects of their game clicking, with the current standings reflecting how well St. John’s has been playing as of late. The club is currently sitting comfortably atop the Atlantic Division with a 5 point lead and three games in hand on the second place Monarchs.

With a pair of games less than 24 hours apart, it’s always interesting to see how the goaltending situation will pan out for St John’s. With the recent demotion of Peter Mannino It is likely we will see the return of Edward Pasquale after missing a brief stint with a knee tweak.

A few adjustments will be made to the IceCaps line up for these two games, forward Patrice Cormier will be back with the club after spending a brief stint at NHL level while all star defenceman Paul Postma’s stellar play of late has gotten him a stint with the Jets.

On the WBS side of things, their lineup has been depleted as of late with the NHL club sustaining what has become a comedic amount of injuries. Most of the Pens top prospects have been called up and even sustained injuries while with the big club. Tonight the Pens are without the services of top gun Eric Tangradi and rookie defensemen Simon Despres.

Though the lineup may be a split of an AHL/ECHL roster, the Baby Penguins still have plenty of firepower and play a wear ‘em down grind ‘em out system. It’s a club with very few finesse players. Look for guys like Colin McDonald, Zach Sill and former NHL veteran Jason Williams to cause headaches in St John’s if they can settle in to their game. Brad Thiessen should get the nod between the pipes for WBS.

Action starts at 7:30 down at Mile One tonight, and if you can’t make the game you can always listen online or keep up on twitter with @IceCapsAHL. Brian Rogers has the call at ThisIsNL.

Some Perspective

I have a sort of personal post for you all today. It’s not about the IceCaps, and to be honest it is only marginally about hockey.

On Wednesday, January 11th, we lost somebody, who despite his short time on this Earth has inspired everybody that has had the privilege of speaking with him.

His name is Joshua King. He was a 12-year-old Corner Brook native who was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes a buildup of fluid in the lungs and impacts many other organ systems as well. From the day he was born, Joshua struggled with his disease, enduring procedures and pain that could bring a man twice his age to the point of despair.

The most compelling aspect of Josh’s personality however, was his ability to take it all in stride. Never one to make excuses, Josh would never be found with anything other than a smile on his face and a story on his lips. Joshua was my girlfriend’s cousin. Over my 9 years with her, I have met him several times and heard countless stories about his endless enthusiasm for life. He was aware of the effects that his condition would have on the length of his life and seemed to relish in it by making the best of every single day. I have never been around a more intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful young man. I only wish I had the opportunity to get to know him even better.

Josh was an enormous hockey fan. In particular, he loved the Leafs. He got the chance to meet many of the players over the past few years at the Air Canada Centre with the Sick Kids program and it was thrilled to do so, regardless of why he was in that position in the first place. Josh loved to play hockey as well. When his condition deteriorated to the point where skating became difficult, Josh, who wanted nothing more than to continue playing the game he loved, switched to playing between the pipes. This is what hockey is about, folks.

Late last year, after years of waiting, Josh received a double-lung transplant. By the middle of this week, his young and fragile body could take the strain no longer.

With all of the talk these past few week about the Montreal Canadiens language disputes and All-Star snubs, it’s easy to lose sight of what hockey is all about. As Josh showed throughout his life, hockey is about heart. Hockey is about the determination to fight through the toughest battles life can put in front of you, and keeping your head high when the going gets tough. It’s not about media scuffles, politics, or managerial decisions – it’s about doing what you have to do to play the game you love to play. This is how he played the game, this is how he lived his life.

Joshua King lived by these standards, and so should the rest of us.

For more information on cystic fibrosis and to make a donation for research, please click here.

To leave a message on Joshua’s Facebook page, please click here.

Thank you for reading. Follow me and The Ice Flow on Twitter.

Game Day: IceCaps try to solve Marlies at home

Tonight at Mile One Centre, the IceCaps will again try to crack the nut that is the Toronto Marlies’ road game.

After another loss last night, the IceCaps have dropped all three of their meetings against Toronto on home ice this season. Luckily this is the final time they’ll meet in St. John’s this season, with only one contest left between the clubs at the Ricoh in February. It’s a puzzling situation considering the Marlies have a brutal road record outside of St. John’s, with only six wins away from the island. Overall, they’ve racked up a 9-10-2 record on the road – not good.

The IceCaps let three opening period goals take them out of the game last night, the winner being scored by highly touted Leafs prospect Joel Colborne late in the first. The Caps bounced back to make it respectable, but came out on the wrong end of a 4-2 final.

Mike Zigomanis had a goal and an assist for the Marlies, while Jussi Rynnas got the win betwen the pipes despite leaving late due to injury.

On the IceCaps’ goalie front, Aebischer was pulled after the 3-0 first and gave way to Mannino for the final two frames.

Jason King nabbed a powerplay marker in the third to add to an O’Dell tally. Jaffray and DeSantis chipped in on the King goal, with Gregoire helping out O’Dell in the second.

Full gamesheet available here.

Tonight’s game is a chance for the Caps to avoid a four game sweep to the Marlies in St. John’s. They’ll want these two points, or else they head into next season being owned by Toronto here at Mile One.

The two teams won’t meet in the playoffs unless they battle for the Calder Cup. Now wouldn’t that be something?

Game goes at 7:30 tonight, NL time. Catch the game on radio with Brian Rogers at ThisIsNL

IceCaps and Monarchs looking for top spot this weekend

As far as important games go, this pair over the weekend is about as big as it gets at this point in the season. The Manchester Monarchs are in town to face the IceCaps, and the top spot in the Atlantic Division is up for grabs.

After returning from a quick road swing last weekend, the IceCaps are on home ice for their next six contests against some tough teams. Their first test will be the Monarchs, who hold the division lead right now with 44 points, the Caps only a point behind.

St. John`s are still holding on to the best winning percentage in the entire conference, however, with a .672. They’ve yet to hit double digits for regulation losses (8) and will look take over the Atlantic with a pair of wins over the weekend.

For Manchester, things have looked great, especially between the pipes where Jeff Zatkoff is 10-4-1 with a ridiculous .935 Sv%, good enough to land him Goaltender of the Month in December, along with an All-Star nod.

Up front the Monarchs are led by Marc Andre Cliche and Dwight King, with Kings’ prospects Linden Vey and Brendan Kozun chipping in as well. As far as offence is concerned, the Monarchs don’t boast much up front in terms of points. But scoring goals against them may turn out to be a bit of a task.

Hopefully the IceCaps can use the home town crowd for a boost and break these guys down early, or else Zatkoff could get red hot.

Game goes at 7:30 at Mile One (Newfoundland time, of course). Brian Rogers has the call at ThisIsNL

Postma and Redmond named All-Stars

The rosters for the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic were released this afternoon, and two of your St. John’s IceCaps have made the list as part of the Eastern Conference contingent. Defencemen Paul Postma and Zach Redmond will join head coach Keith McCambridge in Atlantic City on January 30th for the AHL’s annual showcase of the best the league has to offer.

Both Postma and Redmond, as you would expect, have had great years for the IceCaps thus far. Postma is currently ranked 2nd among AHL defencemen in points, tallying 6 goals and 25 points in his first 26 games with the club. In addition to scoring 15 points in his own right, Redmond was likely selected based on his defensive prowess and dependability, after playing in all 32 IceCaps games and registering a +9 on the year.

You can take a look at the complete rosters and learn more about fan balloting here.

What are your thoughts on the All-Star selections?

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