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IceCaps Preview: St. John's will need its A-game versus division-leading Penguins and Marlies

After a comprehensive two-game series loss to the Portland Pirates, the IceCaps have to kick it up a notch for their next four home games.

St. John's IceCaps /

After taking a beating on the scoreboard two nights in a row to the visiting Portland Pirates, the IceCaps have two days to recuperate before hitting the ice for two more back-to-back sets at home.

During Friday night's game against the Pirates, goalie Zachary Fucale was the busiest player on the ice, stopping 32 of the 36 shots he faced; 18 of 20 coming in the opening frame. Bud Holloway scored the lone goal for the IceCaps in a 5-1 loss on their first home game of 2016.

The next night, Eddie Pasquale started the evening in net but was yanked halfway through the first period after letting three of seven shots through. It was a testy game with 66 penalty minutes combined, and though Fucale managed to kick out 23 of 24 shots in a relief effort, the IceCaps were unable to get the momentum going. Gabriel Dumont prevented the Pirates from getting a shutout, but that was the IceCaps' greatest achievement in a 4-1 loss.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - January 12 and 13

Last time they met: November 4, 2015 (5-2 loss)

In the middle of a six-game road trip, their first head-to-head meeting of the season had the Penguins on a run of seven wins in their previous eight games, and the IceCaps were no match for that momentum, as they rolled to a dominating two-game series sweep.

Michael McCarron and Christian Thomas each notched a goal for the IceCaps in the first contest, but Fucale gave up three goals on three shots early in the second period, forcing Sylvain Lefebvre to send in Pasquale. Trailing by three, the IceCaps played hard in the third period, out-shooting the Pens 21-5, but they were unable to regain control and ended up falling 5-2.

November 6th (4-1 loss)

This was Pasquale's first AHL start since February 5, 2014 (due to injury) and it was the first time Coach Lefebvre mixed up his top-six forwards. It was a tight game ... until the final frame. Daniel Carr scored for the IceCaps and it was a 1-1 game heading into the third. From there, just like the previous match-up, the IceCaps allowed three goals in one period, this time in just over two minutes at the end of the game. The empty netter that capped off that flurry sent the IceCaps to a 4-1 loss.

Those losses gave the IceCaps their first three-game losing streak of the season, following a Halloween night loss to the Hershey Bears..

Toronto Marlies - January 16 and 17

Last time they met: December 26, 2015 (5-2 loss)

Facing the Marlies in Toronto proved to be a challenge on Boxing Day. With Jacob de la Rose and Markus Eisenschmid coming off injuries, the IceCaps tried but were unable to finish their chances. McCarron hit the post and Dumont missed on a short-handed breakaway, while Darren Dietz and Lucas Lessio managed to notch a goal each. Out-shooting the IceCaps 37-26, the Marlies had control of the offence, and finished with a 5-2 victory.

December 27 (5-4 win)

The rematch was a back-and-forth scoring battle, with the IceCaps looking to redeem themselves from the big loss the day before. The Marlies opened the scoring, but Michaël Bournival scored a power play goal, his first of the season, before the first period came to a close.

The Marlies took a two-goal lead in the second, but Joel Hanley, Holloway and de la Rose came to the rescue with back-to-back-to-back goals, sending the IceCaps into a 4-3 advantage. Just when it looked like the IceCaps had it in the bag, the Marlies struck with just over a minute left in the third period to tie it up.

But again, the IceCaps had winning on their mind, and Captain Gabriel delivered, slipping one past Ray Emery with just 36 seconds left for the win. They proved they were a team who came to play with Bournival, Holloway and Dumont each having a goal and an assist.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are first in the Atlantic Division  with 53 points, while the Toronto Marlies are first in the North Division with 60. The IceCaps are in the playoff mix, sitting in third in the North  with 40 points, but they'll have to bring their A game against these two teams to finish their home stand on the right foot.