IceCaps a predictable lot at home

Robin
Robin Short
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St. John’s lets another opportunity to sweep opponent at Mile One slip away

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has been among the American league’s elite hockey teams this season, but the Penguins arrived in St. John’s this past weekend a hamstrung lot, missing six regulars who are on recall to Pittsburgh.

The St. John’s IceCaps’ Carl Klingberg (right) falls to the ice in front of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Denver Manderson, but teammate Kael Mouillierat (21) is there to pick up the loose puck during Saturday night’s American Hockey League game at Mile One Centre. The Penguins won 3-0 to collect a series split.

Of the six, five were among the Penguins’ top scorers.

So the homestanding IceCaps, fresh off a very good six-game road trip, one on which they went 4-2, did what one would expect of a team back home in front of another eager, sellout crowd — they took it to the beleaguered Penguins Friday night by a 5-0 score.

Buoyed by Eddie Pasquale’s first shutout of the season, the return of Zach Redmond to Mile One (he had a goal and an assist in the game) and Carl Klingberg suddenly making like an impact player with a pair of goals, the IceCaps appeared to be in pretty good shape for their first home ice series sweep since last April.

Wrong.

Hit the replay, the one we’ve seen all season, where St. John’s wins one game on home ice, and promptly loses the next night.

This story’s getting old, and just a little bit annoying.

Saturday night, rather than step on the Penguins’ throat, the IceCaps instead squandered their chance for a rare four-point weekend, losing 3-0 to the Pens as Jeff Deslauriers made 30 saves for the shutout.

So how does this happen? How does a team dominant in so many facets of the game one night — St. John’s limited Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to 20 shots Friday, scored a  pair of power play goals and kept the Pens off the board on their five man-advantage chances — look so, um, bad the next?

“It’s the age-old question,” veteran Andrew Gordon said. “It’s tough to beat a team twice in back-to-back games. Unfortunately, we always play back-to-back games in St. John’s.”

True, but the IceCaps are not alone in that department. The Abbotsford Heat out in British Columbia, for example, are a team very, very similar to St. John’s in terms of geography and schedule makeup.

Like the IceCaps, the Heat are on the coast, far away from their nearest competitor. Like the IceCaps, the Heat entertain visiting teams for two-game sets. But unlike St. John’s, Abbotsford wins games on home ice.

Last season, Abbotsford and St. John’s both played 19 two-game homestands. The Heat swept their guests seven times, the IceCaps four times.

This season, in a half-dozen two-game series, the Heat have posted three sweeps, and are 8-2-2 at home. The IceCaps, of course, are still looking for their first sweep after four two-game series and a rare three-game matchup with the Worcester Sharks.

“We knew they would come out strong,” Gordon said of the Penguins Saturday, “and we knew that last night’s result had no bearing on Saturday’s game. It was a fresh start for everyone.”

But with a predictable outcome.

The IceCaps, you see, have acknowledged this time and again, recognized the fact a visiting team that’s lost the night before comes out the next evening like a wounded bear.

Why, then, has St. John’s not countered in equal ornery fashion?

If the IceCaps are so aware that teams will push back in the second game in search of the generally-accepted split on the road, why is not St. John’s not answering with an assault of its own?

Saturday night, instead of stepping on the gas from the drop of the puck, St. John’s coasted. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, too, was stuck in neutral, making for a long 20 minutes of shinny, with a penalty to each team and a shot clock reading 4-2 in favour of the IceCaps heading into the middle stanza.

If St. John’s was trying to generate any hint of an offence, it was lost on most, if not all, of the 6,287 drowsy regulars at Mile One.

Not that Keith McCambridge was prepared to admit the IceCaps started slowly.

“I disagree,” he said. “I don’t feel we came out flat.

“Regardless who is missing from their lineup, the (Penguins) have always been a team that allows a very low percentage of chances against. They are top-three in the league in (least) shots against, so that’s the way they play.”

The IceCaps did run into a bit of bad luck late in the second period when the Penguins, leading 1-0 on Tom Kuhnhackl’s power play goal, went ahead by two when Brian Gibbons finished off a two-on-one play.

That came right after it appeared the IceCaps’ Eric O’Dell was pulled down by a hook that went uncalled in the St. John’s zone, a play which led to the Penguins’ break.

But then, the IceCaps didn’t do themselves any favours in the third. Instead of starting the period strong, it was the Penguins taking charge as Bobby Farnham effectively ended the game with a goal 21 seconds in.

The loss drops the IceCaps’ record to 5-6 at home (that includes an overtime loss, and a pair of setbacks via the shootout).

The Syracuse Crunch are in town this Tuesday and Wednesday, the final home games before Christmas. In the New Year, St. John’s plays eight of 12 games in January at home, and 25 of 44 overall games at Mile One.

Whether the IceCaps are in, or on the outside looking in, at a playoff berth will likely be determined by their home record.

Consider this: of the 16 teams to make the Calder Cup playoffs last season, only two — Hershey and Texas — finished with a home ice record under .500.

Until St. John’s starts winning more games on home ice than it loses, the odds are not in the IceCaps’ favour.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com.

Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

Organizations: IceCaps, Penguins, Worcester Sharks

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Abbotsford, British Columbia Texas

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Recent comments

  • SayWhat
    December 11, 2013 - 12:14

    To Bob...Again insults and character assassination to refute arguments..oh how boring. I'm going to paraphrase a true story into something of an Aesop fable to see if you get the point. A very famous hockey executive at the time had a meeting with executives from a very famous T.V. network. It was after the season was over and the executives were crowing about their ratings. After the presentation, the hockey executive observed that 30 million people were NOT watching HNIC. And asked what were they going to do about it. Judging from what has happened since that meeting and considering the growth of Canada's population since that meeting--not too much has been done about it and today they have a four year stay of execution. P.S. It was on the Internet yesterday that Bettman is watching the Canadian dollar very closely. No doubt you must have read the Goldman-Sach report predicting a 20 percent decline in the Canadian dollar. That means the value of the Leafs alone will drop by about a quarter of a billion dollars if the Loonie falls like Goldman-Sachs predicts. Combine that with the other Canadian teams you're looking at a combined value decline approaching a billion dollars if not more. So much for the mighty Leafs.

    • Big Al
      December 11, 2013 - 12:32

      The leafs value could plummet 250 mil and they would still be the highest valued team. Long live the mighty maple leafs.

  • SayWhat
    December 10, 2013 - 15:56

    To Bob..Buyout clauses are not uncommon. True North only signed a one year extension and if the opportunity presented itself for another team to move into St.John's next season then I am sure an agreement can be made to leave after this season. The Flyers got a one year extension because their stadium wasn't ready for their farm team.. True North can move the Ice Caps into one of two stadiums that would be ready for next season and they are Saskatoon and Sioux Falls. As for us Canadians we constantly over the decades shelled out way too much money believing this is a great product when in reality it is mediocre at best. At least the snowbirds get their money's worth in Florida with two teams. HNIC has been the mostly guilty of culprits telling us how great this entertainment product is because it was the public broadcasters biggest generator of revenue. Read Robin Short's take on the first period of the last home game. Was that period worth the price of admission. Hardly. Overall as the Ice Caps are on the verge of not winning their 50th regular season home game has it really been worth the price of admission at Mile One? Certainly if you like to be subjected to a mediocre product.

    • Bob
      December 11, 2013 - 09:02

      So now Canadians are stupid and hockey is only popular because of CBC.....You must be beating the ladies away with a stick are ya??

  • SayWhat
    December 10, 2013 - 13:34

    To Bob....I'm "Out to lunch"...When one can't refute the argument, it's so typical to resort to insults and character assassination. By moving to St.John's at least 30 million dollars has been taken off the table. Let's low ball some numbers. Multiple 180 thousand by 20 dollars. That's 3.6 million gone. Take that 3.6 million and multiply it by 7 because sports teams like using that 7 to 1 ratio for spinoff benefits. That's another 25.4 million gone. Add the two numbers and 29 million is gone off the table and I am being very conservative. As for St.John's making True North money, I understand that it's a fixed rate for the lease at slightly more than a million dollars per season. And out of that lease revenue, I am sure True North has to suck up some costs such as most of the players salaries. As for St.John's 11th place ranking, that will probably be lower next season as an Eastern Conference team is getting ready to move its farm team.(Not to St.John's). The Flyers farm team will be back in the Philadelphia area playing in Allentown Pa. They will be known as the Leheigh Valley Phantoms and playing in a rink larger than Mile One at 8,500 capacity. Any last hope of the AHL staying in St.John's is being played out as I speak Weeks ago I suggested it would not be a bad idea for Mr. Williams to buy the Portland Pirates. Guess where Portland owners were last month? In Glens Falls, N.Y. looking at setting up shop there once the Flyers move their farm team out of that city at the end of this season.(Seems St'John's is not that attractive to Portland ownership). That means next season, Manchester, New Hampshire will be the closest team to St.John's. As for the NHL, Canadians have been suckers. The richest franchise hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1967. As for players, there was big off season story of a star not going as a free agent to a Canadian team and playing for an American team instead. All you got to do is compare the taxation rate between Quebec and Pennsylvania and you'll see why that player signed with the Flyers.

    • Bob
      December 10, 2013 - 14:24

      Holy crap dude, are you even reading my argument?? Caps have a contract signed with St. John's till the end of 2015 season, that's a season and a half away. The teams you mentioned are moving next year, that's why St. John's isn't an option for them....As for the rest of your argument.....Wow!!! The richest franchise haven't won since 67....Just as well shut her down, not like it's an entertainment business or anything.....

  • SayWhat
    December 09, 2013 - 15:03

    To Bob. The second time has not been exactly financially viable and a contribution to attendance growth for the AHL at the box office...Here is a stat for having a rink too small. Take the last two years for the Manitoba Moose and the first two years of the Ice Caps. The difference is a decline of over 180 THOUSAND fans in lost revenue. The Moose drew over 659 thousand and the Ice Caps drew over 478 thousand. That's not exactly going in the right direction. In other words. St.John's has not contributed to any overall growth in AHL attendance. Meanwhile go through each NHL Eastern Conference team and say to yourself this farm team is the right fit for St.John's. Bear in mind most of them are American based and compare the taxation regime between that American jurisdiction and this province. You would be hard pressed to find one. You say the objective is to make money, tell me how you make up the revenue for a 180 thousand attendance shortfall.

    • Bob
      December 10, 2013 - 10:22

      Because they made more money in Manitoba St. John's isn't financially viable??? Is that your argument??? WOW!!!! True North Sports and Entertainment are the owners, not the AHL and St. John's is making them lots of $$$$. I am NOT arguing the fact that they made more money in Manitoba than in St. John's, I am saying that St. John's is a attractive place to put a AHL team if Ice Caps leave!!! Here i'll say it again because you don't seem to be getting it, I am saying that St. John's is a attractive place to put a AHL team if Ice Caps leave!!! St. John's was the only AHL team to sell out every game last year and the only team to sell out every game the year before. They rank 11th on AHL attendance, which means 19 other teams (many of which are Eastern teams) have less attendance! If we listen to your tax philosophy, why do we have 7 NHL teams?? You should change your name from "SayWhat" to "Out To Lunch". Good day sir, you are a waste of my time.

  • Bob
    December 09, 2013 - 13:24

    "Your not hearing that option these days"........Boy you got your finger on the pulse don't ya! First of all I never said the team wouldn't work out in Manitoba and I never said anything about the Ice Caps relocating. However, they will most likely relocate because the parent team moved to the Western Conference, that's just a matter of common sense. I agree, the Western NHL teams do not want their AHL affiliate teams East of Ontario because of travel times, which again is common sense. For you to say no Eastern Conference NHL team in their right mind would want to move here, your out of your mind! We have already had 2 teams, the second being more successful and financially viable because of the economy here to date. For you to say that any NHL Eastern conference team wouldn't move their AHL affiliate to St. John's where we have sold out every game for 2 1/2 yrs now, have a booming economy, a multimillion dollar owner and massive corporate support, you are out of your mind sir. For Eastern conference teams the travels times are not an issue and a team here will make money, lots and lots of it! Which obviously you must not have not only missed the story on but you have also forgot to read in the introductory paragraph of every business book out there, "The objective of a business is to make $$$$$$". Check it out, it's true!

  • SayWhat
    December 09, 2013 - 12:43

    To Bob..I think you are missing something in your argument about ownership. True North owns the Ice Caps and they have 65 regular season home games left in St.John's. If they go ahead and build a new stadium in Winnipeg as plans have been in the works at the Red River Exhibition Grounds, the team will sell out and be successful like the old Manitoba Moose. As for economies, Southern Manitoba is flourishing. Saskatoon is better than St.John's and Sioux Falls, South Dakota is one of the top ten American minor sports markets. As for another team, who would want to come? I guess you missed the story back in 2011 when certain Western Conference teams suggested to the NHL that the AHL should have a true Western Conference (Hamilton and Toronto is not what they mean). If Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose and the Ducks had better options they probably would jump at the chance to have a more western farm team. Vancouver tried to get Calgary to move out of Abbottsford but to no avail. No Eastern Conference NHL team in their right mind would leave their current farm team situation and relocate to St.John's. It would only happen if someone buys an AHL team and moves it to St.John's and I am not hearing that option these days.

  • Bob
    December 09, 2013 - 11:52

    Are you kidding me?? Who in their right mind would want to come here?? We have sold out every home game, 50/50 ticket sales beat most NHL buildings, corporate support is through the roof, multimillion dollar owner and we have one of the most flourishing economies in Canada. I hope you guys aren't businessmen....

  • SayWhat
    December 09, 2013 - 09:45

    To Paul Walsh....Okay tell us who in their right mind would want to come to St.John's. The only way I see a future for professional hockey is for Mr. Williams to buy a team and relocate it. And frankly I don't see it happening in the immediate future.

  • Seen him play
    December 09, 2013 - 09:17

    Lack of scoring on Sunday!!! I guess the Ice Caps should have signed local kid, Zach OBrien when they had the chance. Now on a PTO with AHL team, Manchester on Saturday in a 5-4 shootout win he scored 2 goals, scored in the shootout, was games 2nd star and a + 3!! Sunday in a 2-1 shootout lose OBrien scored the only Manchester goal. Anyone who read the Tely over the past 10 years and seen this kid play knows he got it. Too bad for the Ice Caps and fans he was not given time to adjust.

  • SayWhat
    December 09, 2013 - 08:35

    You certainly hit the nail on the head. And that comment its tough to win back to back against the same team is incredible. Here's a stat for you. Out of 87 regular season home games at Mile One, the Ice Caps have won 38. That's less than half. How about this one, out of their last 49 home games, the Ice Caps have won just 18. That means winning less than 40 percent at home. As for the other comment on relocating, lets start a poll on where they are going. Is it Saskatoon: Sioux Falls, South Dakota: or back to Winnipeg and rebrand the Manitoba Moose? If plans for a new stadium at the Red River Exhibition Grounds goes ahead, the best right now is Winnipeg.

  • Paul Walsh
    December 09, 2013 - 08:34

    REgarding "Soonbegone", there will be an AHL franchise in St. JOhn's for many years to come whether it's Winnipeg's team or someone else's. Jeez , will people around here stop being so bloody negative!!

    • Mark
      December 09, 2013 - 10:11

      Yes b'y - there's a lineup of AHL teams wanting to relocate here We only had to wait 7 or 8 years after the Baby Leafs left.

  • Soon Be Gone
    December 09, 2013 - 06:46

    It's going to be a lacklustre season all around. Too bad to because they are going to move the franchise back to the mainland at the end of the existing contract. I hope to see another winning season at least before then.