After a rough six-game road trip that ended in a 2-4 record, the St. John's IceCaps are headed back to home turf on Friday. Fans were eager to witness the storied rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs as it extended to the farm teams with the IceCaps hosting the Toronto Marlies in two sold out games.
Both games headed into overtime but ended in two very different outcomes. On Friday night, the IceCaps were victorious with a 4-3 win when Christian Thomas, assisted by goalie Zachary Fucale, scored the winning goal.
The following night fans were taken on a 17 goal emotional roller coaster ride.
In a game where Michael McCarron shone with a five point outing and the IceCaps sat comfortably with a 8-4 lead, IceCaps fans hearts sank when the Marlies took charge and the lead, beating the IceCaps, 9-8.
Saturday's game went down as the second highest scoring AHL game since 1998, and tied a record for the highest scoring game that was tied after regulation.
After facing the Toronto Marlies in two intense battles last weekend, the IceCaps are looking to wrap up a four game homestead against Tampa Bay Lightning's farm team, the Syracuse Crunch.
As we all know, hockey players try to have "short term memories" and the IceCaps are more than ready to shake it off, forge ahead and be ready for their next double-header this coming weekend. The teams are very close in the AHL North Division standings with Syracuse coming in at number three (7-4-0) and the IceCaps are right on their heels at number four (8-5-2).
Even though the IceCaps trail just a hair behind the Crunch overall, they are far ahead of them in the leading scorers area. Seven IceCaps have more points than Syracuse's leading scorers.
Bud Holloway leads the team with 19 points (5G, 14A), Michael McCarron is the AHL's top rookie with 17 points (8G, 9A) and Mark Barberio ranks third among AHL defensemen with 12 points (1G, 11A). They have four players sitting in the Top 15 on the Top Scorers list; Holloway (#3), McCarron (#4), Charles Hudon (#12) and Christian Thomas (#13).
The Crunch are feeling the strain of injuries at the NHL level, causing the call up of leading scorer Joel Vermin, and AHL veterans Johnathan Marchessault and Mike Blunden to Tampa Bay. Team captain Mike Angelidis and defenseman Luke Witkowski were also recalled, leaving the Syracuse line up a bit barren this weekend.
The IceCaps would do well to keep their attention on standout rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, who is tied for the team lead in scoring.
The tandem of Kristers Gudlevskis and Adam Wilcox will man the crease for the Crunch, and both have been very good to start the year. Gudlevskis currently sports a 3-2-0 record with a 2.42 GAA and .922 SV%, Wilcox isn't far behind at 2-2-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .916 SV%.
The IceCaps' high-octane scoring machine will be up against a stern task this weekend.
As many as three former Crunch players could face Syracuse this weekend. Defenseman Mark Barberio, forward Eric Neilson and goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
This weekend marks the first meeting of the two teams for the 2015-2016 season, and it should be an interesting encounter. The IceCaps are just one of five teams that are undefeated at home in regulation with a 5-0-2-1 record.
Syracuse is heading to St. John's after winning three straight with eight of their 12 games having been decided by just one goal.
The IceCaps began practicing Monday in preparation for the back-to-back games this weekend. After a though outing for Fucale last Saturday, he says he's ready. "I'm going to work really hard this week for Friday. I'm going to work hard to help this team get back to its winning ways."