BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – The St. John’s IceCaps (2-3-1-0) team speed was too much for the Hartford Wolf Pack (2-2-0-0) and gave them a 5-2 win Sunday afternoon at the XL Center. ending their six-game opening season road trip in strong fashion as they head back to Newfoundland.
The IceCaps ended a six-game opening season road trip in strong fashion as they head back to Newfoundland.
The IceCaps scored early and often and never looked back.
“When we use our speed to our transition game, that’s the key to when we are most effective. (It’s) when the defense gets it to our forwards,” St. John’s bench boss Sylvain Lefebvre said. “Last week we didn’t do that well. This weekend, we did. We got five out of six points so it was a successful weekend and a good way to head home.”
The goals came quickly and early in the late afternoon meeting between the foes who met on opening night.
The IceCaps’ Sven Andrighetto got a perfect one-touch pass from the red-hot Chris Terry. Andrighetto, who was just sent down from the parent Montreal Canadiens, received the puck in the right wing circle and snapped a wrister, the game’s first shot, past Pack netminder, Mackenzie Skapski, just 36 seconds into the contest for his third goal in four games.
The play was made possible by Mike McCarron, coming off a two-game suspension, who won a one-on-one battle with the Pack’s Adam Tambellini along the right wing boards, after intercepting a clearing attempt.
“That wasn’t run and gun hockey,”Pack head coach Ken Gernander said. “We had a chance to get that puck out along the wall and we didn’t.”
The Pack did respond quickly.
Newcomer Justin Fontaine, in just his second game with the Pack, fed Marek Hrivik who took it and raced down the right wing. Hrivik flipped a backhand shot that went off the skate of rookie IceCaps defenseman, Brett Lernout, who was in front of the net. The puck got past goalie Charlie Lindgren, who was making his second start of the season, at 1:27.
At 2:16, the IceCaps’ Joel Hanley’s left point shot made it through a maze of players and seemed to deflect off of defenseman Ryan Graves. The puck beat a screened Skapski to the short-side looking. Skapski looked like he expected the shot to go to the far side. The goal gave the lead back to the IceCpas at 2-1.
Andrighetto made a big difference in the St. John’s lineup. He stressed that for the IceCpas, getting the early lead was important. “When you play three (games) in three (nights) you have to get off to a quick start and we were able to that tonight.”
For Lefebvre, the quick start was what he was looking for after a tough overtime loss in Springfield.
“We really needed (a quick start) after the way the (OT) game ended for us in Springfield. We knew we gave them a point last night. We should have had the two and we wanted to come out and establish our game right way.”
“Certainly, (the OT loss) was critical to our win and it’s nice the penalty killing did so well, but you don’t want to do it that often,” Lefebvre, who played 15 games in Hartford toward the end of his playing career, said.
The IceCaps made it 3-1 on the power play.
In what looked like a set play, Andrighetto came off the left wing half-wall and found Charles Hudon cruising in front. Hudon opened the stick blade perfectly to redirect the pass for his team-leading fifth goal at 14:39.
“No, no,” Andrighetto said when asked if it was a set play. “We’re creative players. We had our heads up and made the best of the situation that we were presented.”
Lefebvre saw the mutual benefit of putting them together.
“The players, Sven and Charles, complement each other very well and made a smart play using their time and space well.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the ice, the Wolf Pack power play was beyond listless.
The Pack failed to take advantage of four, five-on-three chances. On the night, the team came up with zero to show for their nine total man-advantage opportunities.
“Yeah, it was bad,” a clearly perturbed Gernander said. “It was an extension of some of our five-on-five play. We were reluctant to shoot the puck and wanted to do things the easy way.”
The best chances for the Pack came late on their fourth two-man advantage in the second period. The first came as Hrivik was on the right wing and the second from Malte Stromwall on the left. It was the only real challenge presented to Lindgren. Under duress, the St. John’s PK did a strong job.
The IceCaps’ goal to make it 4-1 at 7:26 of the second period epitomized the Pack’s poor performance. The Pack could not control the puck or two of the St. John’s forwards while on the powerplay.
The puck was just outside the crease. It was amazing that Fontaine, Tambellini, and Calle Andersson were unable to box out the IceCaps Jacob de la Rose and Bobby Farnham. Skapski couldn’t cover a loose puck and Farnham jammed in his second of the season.
“That was identical to the one scored on us last night (against Lehigh Valley),” Gernander said. “We addressed that on video before the game. I don’t know where to go with that.”
It was an important goal for St. John’s.
“That was a very big goal. It gave us the three-goal lead and put some distance between us. Maybe not a picture-perfect two-on-one, but we were in position and Bobby made it count,” said Lefebvre.
The Pack finally put solid back-to-back forechecking shifts together and it created some offensive zone pressure midway through the third period.
“We did a pretty good job in the third period when we put our mind to it. The ability is there,” Gernander stated with firmness in his voice.
Greg Carey closed the gap to make it 4-2. Steven Fogarty won a one-on-one battle with Philp Samuelsson and fed Carey the puck. Carey then snapped his second over Lindgren’s glove from 15 feet out at 4:46.
Tanner Glass was key in the Carey goal as the veteran forward was hitting and diving at everything in sight most of the night, but especially on this one shift.
“He has been our best player by far this season,” Gernander said. “He does all the right things to the best of his ability. He doesn’t detract from his game one bit. It’s not an easy game. He knows he has to play hard. He is a pretty good example for others to follow in what it takes to be a professional.”
“I don’t know if we were passengers on a bus,” after Gernander had a phrase he likes to employ asked back to him in the form of a question. “That would mean you’re all going to the same direction (or destination). I’m not sure that is the situation (with this team).”
It’s going to be a lovely two days of practice for these Pack players before they meet up with the Hershey Bears on Wednesday night at the XL Center.
Captain Mat Bodie was scratched and is listed day to day with an upper-body injury. Tanner Glass wore the Assistant Captian’s “A” along with Chris Summers and Hrivik.
Fontaine wore number 14 and scored in Saturday night’s 5-4 OT win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Rookie Michael Joly was scratched for both games.
Ex-Pack goalie, Yann Danis, got into his first game with the IceCaps Saturday night 5-4 loss to Springfield in their home opener. He made 30 saves on 35 shots. He was the healthy scratch in what is a three-man goaltending situation for St. John’s. He was philosophical about his trip to Hartford. “We really enjoyed our time in Hartford. I guess this is part of my farewell tour. New Jersey last year who I had played for. Montreal this year. Maybe in five or six years I will be back here,” Danis said with a laugh.
The call from Montreal was a complete surprise.
“I had a good camp in Anaheim. In fact, I stayed longer than I thought. I thought I might be in San Diego, but you know the numbers game. So the call came totally out of the blue, but I’m really happy to have a chance with such an outstanding organization. It’s great to have a second chance.” Danis, a Quebec native, said.
“It was too late in camp and we have other things ongoing, so (possibly going to Europe) really wasn’t (an option). I was just waiting, to be honest, for an injury to happen somewhere to get a call. I hate to say it, but that’s a part of this business.”
“Kyla (his wife) is home (in Quebec) packing things up and we’re expecting our third child – a daughter – so we’re excited about everything (including going back to the Rock). Maybe she will calm the two boys down, but I doubt it! We’re ready for another adventure in St. John’s” .
Terry has been outstanding. He had a goal and three assists Saturday night for St. John’s. He leads the team with eight points. In Springfield, amazingly he wasn’t named a star of the game.
Samuelsson was back in the St. John’s lineup after a tough opening night game in Hartford. After that game, he was benched for the last two games last weekend. Samuelsson played in Providence on Friday against the Bruins and then in Springfield against the Thunderbirds on Saturday night. Samuelsson is, of course, the eldest son of former Whaler great Ulf Samuelsson. The elder Samuelsson was also a former Wolf Pack, and Avon Old Farms assistant coach, Rangers assistant coach and is currently the head coach of Charlotte (AHL).
Samuelsson’s brother Henrik, by the way, is with the Tucson Roadrunners while his youngest brother, Adam, is with the USNDTP-US National Development Team (USHL). His sister Amanda plays for Penn State (Big 10).
St. John’s home opener will feature an appearance by Canadiens great, Guy Lafluer. It is Montreal’s final season in St. John’s before they move the team next year to Laval, Quebec, and the brand new Place Bell Centre.
A good question to ask might be why there were no former Wolf Pack or a noteworthy New York Rangers great in Hartford opening night?
Former Pack Shawn O’Donnell was recalled from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) on a Professional Try-Out deal by the Milwaukee Admirals. He’ll likely play right away since Nashville lost five of their players in two games this week to injuries.
Saturday night was an AHL first with a Father-Son duo was in the lineup.
Jonah Imoo played the entire game for the Ontario Reign backed up by his father Dusty Imoo. The younger Imoo was with the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL) and had to be pressed into service with injuries in Los Angeles to Hamden-native, Jonathan Quick. The Cup winning Quick sustained a groin injury that will sideline him for three months while his backup,Jeff Zatkoff also suffered a groin injury but in practice. Those injuries meant that both Ontario goalies, Peter Budaj and Jack Campbell, were both recalled.
The elder Imoo played minor pro hockey in the early 1990’s. He last saw action in 1991-92 with Cincinnati, Erie and Dayton in the ECHL and for Ft. Wayne (IHL) that year after being in Springfield’s AHL camp.
Imoo, now 46, played for the Japanese Olympic team at the 1998 Nagano Games and for the Seibu Bears and Oji Eagles in the Japanese Hockey League that became the ALIH (Asia League Ice Hockey).
Dusty Imoo is presently is in his second year as a developmental coach for LA and he primarily works with the Ontario goalies.
Special shout-out to Irene Leitao who did a superb job with the Canadian national anthem. She sang it in French at the beginning and finished in English. Her performance impressed a Canadian website, Rocket Sports Media from Montreal, who was in town to do a St. John’s feature as well as IceCaps staff and players.
“She was very good when I was here,” ex-Pack goalie Danis said. “That was so very well done.”
“The guys from Quebec really liked it. My anthem is not Quebec or American, but it was a really nice thing,” the Swiss-born Andrighetto said.
Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre was surprised too. “She did a very nice job and it was a nice surprise for everybody.”
Watch that wonderful performance below: