Monarchs take weekend series
S U N D A Y
A severely depleted St. John’s IceCaps squad fell for the second straight day against the Manchester Monarchs, dropping a 3-0 decision Sunday at Mile One Centre.
Playing with just 17 skaters, one fewer than the maximum, the IceCaps couldn’t muster any offence yet again. After scoring just once in Saturday night’s loss, the IceCaps were blanked by the Monarchs and goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who stopped 27 shots, including 13 in the final frame, to record his second shutout of the season.
St. John’s fell behind just 20 seconds into the game when Ray Kaunisto came in off the left wing and wristed a shot that beat Eddie Pasquale high on the glove side. The winger used defenceman Jason DeSantis as a screen on the play, giving the IceCaps’ netminder virtually no chance to see the puck.
Things got even worse for St. John’s a few minutes later. Paul Postma was carrying the puck out of the defensive zone when he stumbled and fell, colliding with a Monarchs’ forward in the process. Postma stayed down on the ice for several minutes after the collision and was helped to the dressing room, ending his day and leaving the team with just 16 skaters for the rest of the game.
Manchester carried the 1-0 advantage into the third period and picked up an insurance marker 5:06 into the frame. Justin Azevedo took a drop pass from Brandon Kozun and wired a shot past Pasquale to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
St. John’s pressed hard to get on the board in the late stages of the third but was unable to get much traffic in front of Zatkoff. The Monarchs were able to keep the play to the outside, forcing the IceCaps to settle for low-percentage shots for much of the game.
Andrei Loktionov cashed in on the empty net with 18 seconds remaining to seal the win for Manchester.
Captain Jason Jaffray faced the media following the game, and said falling behind early hurts the club (6-9-2 when trailing after one period, and just .500 when allowing the game’s first goal).
The IceCaps finish their home stand with a disappointing 3-3 record but still maintain a 14-point lead over the Monarchs atop the Atlantic Division. Their magic number to clinch a playoff berth remains at nine points.
The club now heads out on the road for six games beginning Wednesday night at the Giant Center in Hershey to take on the Bears. From there, the team visits Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next Friday and Saturday, respectively, before travelling to Norfolk to take on the AHL-leading Admirals for two games next week, before wrapping things up back in Hershey on Mar. 31.
S A T U R D A Y
Despite their much-hyped green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, the St. John’s IceCaps did not have the luck of the Irish Saturday night.
The IceCaps dropped a 3-1 decision to the Manchester Monarchs Saturday night at Mile One Centre on St. Patrick’s Day. It was the first win for the Monarchs in six games against St. John’s this year.
Brian O’Neill scored the go-ahead goal just 42 seconds into the third period and Martin Jones made 25 saves in the victory.
Eddie Pasquale was brilliant for St. John’s (38-17-5-2), stopping 29 shots in defeat. It was a tightly-contested game from start to finish, with neither team able to pull away despite some great chances for both sides. David Meckler got the visitors on the board 11:48 into the game after a poor line change by the IceCaps resulted in a two-on-one rush.
Richard Clune skated in off the left wing and waited until the last second before sliding a tape-to-tape pass to Meckler, who converted into the open cage for his seventh of the season.
The score stayed that way until the 12:47 mark of the second period when the line of Jason Gregoire, Ben Maxwell and Kevin Clark cashed in after some hard work in the offensive zone. Gregoire fed Clark with a pass in the slot and the Manitoba native stepped around a sprawling defender, slipping a shot through the pads of Jones to tie the game at one.
With the score tied at one through two periods, the Monarchs came out strong in the final frame and jumped out to a 2-1 lead early. O’Neill made a nifty move to the backhand off a rebound to beat Pasquale for his first professional goal in his first-ever AHL game.
The Monarchs nearly put the game away midway through the third. Defenceman John Negrin fanned on a pass in the neutral zone, resulting in a breakaway for Manchester, but Pasquale made two huge saves to keep the home side in it.
O’Neill’s marker would prove to be enough for Manchester, however. The insurance goal came from Trent Hunter via the empty net with 1:21 to go, sending the capacity crowd to the exits early.
The loss leaves the team 5-4-0-1 in its last 10 games.
The teams meet again Sunday afternoon to conclude the two-game series at Mile One Centre.