Calder Cup talk beginning to ramp up

Raymond Sawada

This weekend the IceCaps finally return home for a six game stand at Mile One Centre. It’s been nearly a month since they last played here on St. John’s ice, and this most recent road swing hasn’t been as kind as most, with the team going just 2-3-1 in their last six.

The time away from home will clue up on Tuesday against W-B Scranton, and things will kick off here in the city on Friday against the Hershey Bears.

The IceCaps now have a stranglehold on the Atlantic Division, and there’s little doubt they’ll end the season in the Conference’s top three seeds. If the playoffs were to start today, the team would face the Albany Devils (New Jersey’s farm club, of course) in the first round — a team that’s 12 points behind the Caps with more games played. Where the IceCaps have their sights set on this upcoming homestand is obviously the top seed in the Conference.

Though the club hasn’t exactly been lights-out on home ice all season, recently they’ve been much better, reeling off five of six at Mile One in early February. The tides have swayed a little, and the IceCaps, who were once almost unbeatable on the road and terribly average at home have been quite the opposite in the last month. Funny how things even out.

I’m seeing this recent flip-flop as a positive for the team. It’s great that they’ve begun hitting their stride on home ice at this point in the season with the playoffs just around the corner. There’s little doubt they will hold home-ice advantage in the postseason for at least a round or two, and if all goes well in this upcoming stretch of games, they could be in position to hold it down for the entirety of a Calder Cup run.

The IceCaps are currently six points behind the Norfolk Admirals for first in the Conference, but also hold four games (or a possible eight points) in hand. If you look through the entire AHL you won’t find a team with as few regulation losses as the IceCaps at fifteen. The Oklahoma City Barons of the Western Conference have 17 right now, and they too are considered contenders.

In the IceCaps’ own backyard, the Eastern Conference, contenders would include Norfolk, of course, who are currently riding a 12 (yes, twelve) game winning streak. But they’ve also recently had a good piece of their roster removed when Carter Ashton and his 19 goals were dealt to the Marlies — another Western Conference contender. The W-B Scranton Penguins also pose a threat for the title, and they’ve played the IceCaps hard this season, winning both matchups in St. John’s.

With the recent additions of Brock Trotter and Raymond Sawada, the IceCaps have taken steps to gear up for a serious run. I was lucky enough to see Trotter in action three times this season at Mile One, and he seems like a guy built for the playoffs. And he’s been there recently, with 36 playoff games played in the past three years split over the AHL and KHL. Trotter’s most recent run with the Bulldogs in 2010 saw him notch 19 points in 19 games. He then racked up nine in 11 the following year with Riga Dynamo. Trotter is small but plays a grinding style. He can muck it up and chip in points.

Sawada is no stranger to the playoffs himself, after dropping the Calder Cup finals to the Hershey Bears two years in a row as a member of the Manitoba Moose and Texas Stars in 2009 and 2010. He racked up 46 playoff games in that time, and has a total of 52 played at the AHL level.

While neither of these guys present a lot in NHL upside, they’re AHL mainstays that are required for success. By adding both recently, it’s obvious that the IceCaps are about to make a real stab at landing the Calder Cup in their first year on the rock. With Newfoundland being such a hockey-crazy province, the city should be buzzing as we get close to the playoffs. As much as I hate (actually, love) to insert my own Maple Leafs spin on this, a Marlies-IceCaps final may actually blow the roof off the Mile One Centre this spring. Of course a lot of things would have to fall into place for that to happen, but it would definitely create quite an atmosphere without question.

The IceCaps look ready to turn this Calder Cup talk into a reality. Now there’s some real work to be done.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com or follow on twitter here (Leafs) and here (IceCaps)

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

Kraft Hockeyville Rosters

Here are the speculated rosters for tomorrow night’s Hockeyville exhibition game between the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators:

Senators lineup, from ScoreOttawa:

Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Regin, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Bobby Butler, Chris Neil, Mark Parrish,  Corey Locke, Corey Cowick, Derek Grant, David Dziurzynski, Mike Hoffman & Mika Zibanejad.

Defence: Jared Cowen, Chris Phillips, Brian Lee, David Rundblad, Matt Carkner, Eric Gryba, Erik Karlsson

Goaltenders: Mike McKenna, Alex Auld

Jets lineup, from the Illegal Curve:

*note, not all of these players will be dressing

Ron Hainsey
Evander Kane
Tim Stapleton
Andrew Ladd
Bryan Little
Jim Slater
Troy Bodie
Chris Thorburn
Blake Wheeler
Patrice Cormier
Johnny Oduya
Ondrej Pavelec
Edward Pasquale
Mark Flood
Paul Postma
Tobias Enstrom
Kenndal McArdle
Mark Scheifele
Spencer Machacek
Derek Meech
Carl Klingberg
Ben Maxwell
Chris Mason
Jason Gregoire
Zach Redmond
Michael Forney
Ben Chiarot
Cody Sol
Akim Aliu
Julian Melchiori

Rival fans should make IceCaps’ season interesting

7,000 people will be filing into the Mile One Centre on a regular basis in the next few months. On most nights, things should look pretty uniform, or at least sound that way. We’ll hear a few “Go Caps go!” chants, and see tons of those gorgeous jerseys floating around. But every few weeks, things will be different.

For example, when the Hamilton Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies, and even to an extent, the WBS Penguins come to town, things won’t be so one-sided.

Photo: Hamilton Spec

Some believe that Canadiens fans (Bulldogs’ parent) may very well drown out IceCaps supporters in the first game of the season. While I believe this is far-fetched and not the case at all, there will definitely be a good opportunity for some Habs fans to show off their red, white, and blue. Is this really a bad thing? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t put much stock in the idea that a few fans of other AHL clubs will take away from the IceCaps’ home advantage. That’s just foolish.

From CBC.ca’s Tim Wharnsby:

Newfoundland hockey fans do not alter their NHL  allegiances easily. Most of them are long-time supporters of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins, or they cheer for the team of their favourite Newfoundlander, like Daniel Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings or Ted Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning. So even though the Winnipeg Jets have brought back pro hockey to the Rock by placing their AHL affiliate in St. John’s, the Jets have some work to do in this province to turn the locals into fanatics of the Jets.

Joe Colborne - Photo: Marlies.ca

As a Leafs fan, and writer for Maple Leafs Hot Stove, I’ve followed the team closely for basically my entire life (probably even more so in the last two years due to my newly found writing hobby.)

From discussing lineups, prospects, coaching decisions, trades, roster moves, and literally EVERYTHING in between with fellow Leafs fans and analysts, I’m probably much more familiar with the Marlies right now than I am with the IceCaps. Actually, there’s no “probably” about it. I am.

So when the Marlies finally do come to St. John’s in November, I’ll be looking out for the likes of Joe Colborne, Ben Scrivens, Mike Zigomanis, and others who I believe to have real futures with my beloved Maple Leafs. Do I dislike the Jets? Of course not. And I’ll be behind the IceCaps for the rest of their schedule no doubt, especially when they play those Bulldogs.

I’m sure by the time this season winds down, I should be just as familiar with the Jets/IceCaps lineups as I am with the Leafs/Marlies. But my allegiances will never shift, as is the case with most hockey fans in Newfoundland and abroad.

Eric Tangradi - WBS Penguins

I think the atmosphere created by these sorts of scenarios will make for some really interesting games down at the Mile One Centre. After all, a bit of friendly banter between hockey fans should add to the experience of taking in a pro hockey game. Just don’t throw any beer at me when I show up in my Luke Schenn Leafs jersey, and everything will be fine.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com (twitter/maplestirup) and follow the blog on twitter here.

It’s official, IceCaps to be affiliated with Colorado Eagles

coloradoeagles.com

From Sean Leahy at Puck Daddy:

Winnipeg Jets announce ECHL affiliation with Colorado Eagles.

We reported on August 8th that this may be the case when Jake Marto signed a contract earlier this summer. In the official release about Marto’s signing, it was pointed out that he would report to the Eagles if the IceCaps were to cut him.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow on twitter

Riley Armstrong to try out with IceCaps

Riley Armstrong will try out with the St. John’s IceCaps this month, in hopes of cracking the roster full-time. Armstrong confirmed the news on Twitter when concerns arose about him possibly being on the Lokomotiv charter flight that crashed on Wednesday morning.

Armstrong, who has spent time with the Worcester Sharks and Abbotsford Heat in the past, is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong.

Armstrong’s best AHL output was in 2008-09 season when he scored 25 goals and added 17 assists for the division-rival Sharks. Last season, he spent time with the Ausburg Panthers of the DEL.

The IceCaps should be a fresh start for Armstrong, and with the Leafs connection to his older brother, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him quickly become a fan favorite. Hopefully he can crack the lineup.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow the blog on twitter @SJ_IceCaps

IceCaps ticket packages to be released September 10th

The St John’s IceCaps will release three ten-game ticket packages for purchase on September 10th. With price yet to be determined, here are the three options, from VOCM.COM:

Package #1

Friday, October 14: vs Hamilton
Saturday, October 22: vs Bridgeport
Wednesday, October 26: vs Portland
Thursday, November 18: vs Norfolk
Wednesday, December 7: vs Syracuse
Friday, December 9: vs Worcester
Friday, February 3: vs Worcester
Friday, March 9: vs Hershey
Wednesday, March 14: vs Hamilton
Saturday, April 7: vs Springfield

Package #2

Saturday, October 15: vs Hamilton
Tuesday, October 25: vs Portland
Friday, November 25: vs Toronto
Friday, January 6: vs Manchester
Tuesday, January 10: vs Toronto
Sturday, January 14: vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Saturday, February 4: vs Worcester
Wednesday, February 8: vs Providence
Saturday, March 10: vs Hershey
Tuesday, April 3: vs Portland

Package #3

Friday, October 21: vs Bridgeport
Saturday, November 12: vs Connecticut
Saturday, November 19: vs Norfolk
Saturday, November 25: vs Toronto
Tuesday, December 6: vs Syracuse
Saturday, January 7: vs Manchester
Wednesday, January 11: vs Toronto
Saturday, February 11: vs Binghamton
Tuesday, March 13: vs Hamilton
Wednesday, April 4: vs Portland

I can imagine that Packages #2 and #3 will be the most sought after, with the Marlies games included. Early Christmas present? I think so.

Ticket packages will be available at the Mile One Centre box office (576-7657)

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow @SJ_IceCaps on twitter

IceCaps on the radio: team strikes deal with Steele Communications

Some great news for IceCaps fans today. The team has reached an agreement with Steele Communications to have every game broadcast on radio. As a Leafs fan myself, I can’t count how many times AM640 in Toronto bailed me out when games weren’t televised.

From the official VOCM release:

The St. John’s IceCaps and Steele Communications have signed a three-year partnership to bring every IceCaps game into the homes of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Steele Communications will broadcast all 78 IceCaps regular season games, the playoffs and three pre-season games. Home and away games can be heard on This is Newfoundland Labrador on 930 AM in the St. John’s area. The stations streaming every game online include VOCM in St. John’s, Clarenville, Marystown, Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor; HITS-FM and K-Rock in St. John’s and Corner Brook; KIXX Country in Carbonear; Big Land in Labrador, and; CFCB in Corner Brook.

With tickets looking to be hard to come by, this deal allows fans from around the island a chance to follow the team closely. Seems like a no-brainer move, good thing they pulled it off.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow the blog on twitter @SJ_IceCaps

IceCaps will start in Central Newfoundland

The St John’s IceCaps will travel to Central Newfoundland for practices and a pair of exhibition games against the Norfolk Admirals in late September. Those residing in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander will have the first chance to see the team in competitive action after a brief start to training camp in St. John’s.

From the Gander Beacon:

The newest AHL team announced on Monday that it was coming to Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor to hold practices, and play a pair of exhibition games against the Norfolk Admirals (farm team of the Tampa Bay Lightning).

Although the team’s first-ever game will be played at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor, the squad will participate in a special ceremony in Gander.

“They asked us if we could participate in the dinner for the 9/11 tribute, Beyond Words, and they asked if we could participate in the golf tournament, but we’re not leaving St. John’s until 2 p.m. in the afternoon, so we will be attending the charity dinner to help raise funds for Beyond Words,” said Glenn Stanford, governor and COO of the IceCaps. “Certainly, for all of us who remember what happened 10 years ago, we were able to marry up a hockey game, and get an opportunity to participate in the Beyond Words tribute. It was a win-win for us.”

Along with participating in the charity dinner and battling the Admirals, the team will stay in Gander during its entire time in Central Newfoundland, practice at the Gander Community Centre, and hold two game-day practices.

The IceCaps’ first home game will come on October 14th against the Hamilton Bulldogs after a brief road trip to New England to open up the season.

 

IceCaps season schedule released, team will host Hamilton first

The 2011-12 AHL schedule has been released, and the St. John’s IceCaps will play the Providence Bruins to open their season on October 7th on the road. From there, they’ll travel to Manchester to play the Monarchs the following night (Saturday.)

Fast forward to the following weekend, and the first regular season AHL game in St. John’s since the Baby Leafs left town will be the IceCaps and Hamilton Bulldogs on October 14th. The team will play the Canadiens affiliate again the following night, and remains at home for another pair of games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders affiliate) the following weekend. For the official schedule, follow this link to the AHL.com release.

Other notable games include the first home game against the Toronto Marlies, which will be to open a back-to-back on the weekend of November 25th. The WBS Penguins will be in town for the first time on January 14th for another weekend pair of games. Every home game for the IceCaps will be a part of a two game set.

It’s also interesting to note that the team will basically be on the road for the entire month of February, leaving after the 12th and not returning until March 9th when they host the Hershey Bears.

Simply click “Continue reading” below for the entire IceCaps regular season schedule.

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