St. John’s 4-3 loss Manchester drops team to eighth in Eastern Conference
A post-season berth is far from guaranteed, but should the St. John’s IceCaps make it to the American Hockey League playoffs, they could very well turn out be the biggest threat to the Calder Cup aspirations of the Manchester Monarchs.
Yes, the Monarchs defeated the IceCaps 4-3 in a shootout Sunday afternoon in Manchester, N.H., but it was a game in which St. John’s had a 43-25 shot advantage and “deserved a much better fate” according to IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge. It also closed out a 10-game season-series between the two teams, with St. John’s coming away with a 6-3-1 record.
Those half-dozen setbacks to St. John’s represent almost half the losses Manchester (34-14-7) has suffered through 55 games this season.
The fact remains, however, that while the Monarchs sit comfortably atop the league standings, six points clear of the field, the IceCaps (28-19-4) are just barely inside the playoff fence; the single point they gained Sunday puts them in a tie with the Albany Devils for eighth place in the conference ... and only eight teams make it to the post-season.
In other words, they could have really, really used that extra point Manchester gained in the shootout.
“And we deserved two points,” said McCambridge. “We played with good energy. We played a very strong game against the team with the best record in the league.
“I liked our game a lot more than I liked the result.”
Martin Jones, on assignment from the parent Los Angeles Kings during the Olympic break, made 40 saves for Manchester and stopped all four IceCaps — Jerome Samson, Kael Mouillierat, Eric O’Dell and Jason Jaffray — he faced in the shootout.
Michael Hutchinson faced 25 shots in the St. John’s net, giving up goals by Nick Shore and Jordan Weal in the shootout.
“I thought both goaltenders were good, but Jones obviously was the difference for (the Monarchs) tonight,” said McCambridge.
“I thought he looked like an NHL goalie.”
Carl Klingberg, Adam Lowry and John Albert scored for St. John’s. For both Klingberg and Albert, it was their second goals in as many games; they had provided the IceCaps’ offence in a 3-2 loss to the Providence Bruins Friday as St. John’s began a six-game road trip.
Nick Deslauriers, with two, and Steve Quailer had the goals for Manchester.
The Deslauriers markers might be seen as particularly hurtful daggers, the first because of its timing — it came with 2.2 seconds left in the middle period to tie the game 2-2 — and the second because of the circumstances.
Seven minutes into the third, with St. John’s up 3-2, the Monarchs’ Tyler Toffoli stepped out of the penalty box after a failed IceCaps power play and pressured Hutchinson into a turnover, with Deslauriers getting the puck and firing it into a wide-open net for the goal that led to overtime and the eventual shootout.
Asked if Sunday’s result came down to those particular plays, McCambridge replied “I think every game comes down to two or three shifts. It’s just that those ones probably stick out a little bit more.”
Notes: St. John’s continues its road trip Tuesday night in Lewiston, Me., where it faces the Portland Pirates … With rookie forward JC Lipon suffering with the flu, the IceCaps dressed seven defencemen Sunday… Klingberg had eight shots on goal, a season high for St. John’s … St. John’s native and Monarchs forward Zach O’Brien had no points and two shots on goal Sunday ... In 20 AHL games this season, Jones has allowed three or more goals on seven occasions, but four times versus the IceCaps … The Molson Canadian three stars Sunday: 1. Martin Jones, 2. Nick Deslauriers, 3. Carl Klingberg… The Mary Brown’s hardest-working IcCap: Ben Chiarot ...