Chiarot goal gives IceCaps the right push

Robin Short & John Browne
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St. John’s downs Portland Pirates 4-2

A Ben Chiarot goal with six seconds to go in the opening period of play merely tied the game, but it proved to be just the catalyst the IceCaps needed as St. John’s eventually skated away with a 4-2 decision over the Portland Pirates Tuesday night.

Portland Pirates defenceman Mathieu Brisebois, 25, (left) and St. John’s IceCaps centreman Patrice Cormier, 28, battle for a loose puck in the Pirates defensive zone during first-period action of their American Hockey League game at Mile One Centre Tuesday night. The IceCaps went on to win 4-2. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The win improved the IceCaps’ American Hockey League Eastern Conference record to 18-14-1-2 on the year, and marked their fifth victory on Mile One Centre ice — once a bugaboo with the team — in their last seven games. St. John’s took two of three games from Portland in the series. What made the Chiarot goal — unremarkable as it was — special was the fact it proved to turn around the IceCaps’ fortunes. Just as they did Monday night in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates, the IceCaps started slowly as Portland took the play to the home side, grabbing a 1-0 lead on a Lucas Lessio goal at 14:25 of the opening period. Little changed until the line of John Albert between Jason Jaffray and Andrew Gordon — a force most of the night — hit the ice in the dying seconds of the first 20 minutes of play. The trio hemmed the Pirates in their own zone with unrelenting forechecking until Chiarot fired his third goal of the year past Louis Dominque. “That was the turning point,” acknowledged St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge. “That pressure in their end got our legs underneath us and got our energy level back to where we needed it “We had a real strong push in the second and third periods. But what changed things was the Chiarot goal.” Indeed. The IceCaps dominated the second period, outshooting the Pirates 15-5 and grabbing a 2-1 lead in Carl Klingberg’s 10th goal on the year. St. John’s refused to take its foot off the gas in the third, as Gordon scored what would turn out to be the game-winner at the 3:45 mark, tapping in his 12th goal after Albert started the play with a dash down the wing. Both Albert and Jaffray would finish the night with a pair of assists each. Tobias Rieder brought the Pirates to within one goal just under three minutes later, but Klingberg iced it with his second of the night into an empty net. With Dominque pulled for an extra attacker, the Pirates launched a furious attack in the dying seconds, but St. John’s goalie Eddie Pasquale was equal to the challenge making a handful of saves as the seconds ticked away, including at least two of the highlight reel variety. “Those are the ones we need to win games,” McCambridge said. “He’s been excellent for us this year. “Based on his numbers and based on the way he’s playing, he’s proving himself as an elite AHL goaltender.” With the win, Pasquale improved to 14-11-1, and lowered his goals against average to 2.25 while upping his save percentage to .923. “All season long,” said McCambridge, “we’ve been pushing back. We’ll build off tonight’s game, which is a real positive move in the right direction, and take some good things out of this series into the next series.” That next series goes Friday and Saturday night against the Toronto Marlies, third in the Western Conference at 19-1-2-1. rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, Toronto Marlies

Geographic location: Portland

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