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St. John's Icecaps vs. Syracuse Crunch series recap: Zach Fucale stands tall in two-game sweep

The IceCaps needed a win in this important divisional matchup, and boy did they work hard for it.

St. John's IceCaps /

Coming into the back-to-back set with a five-game losing skid, and about to face a Syracuse Crunch team that they were tied with for fifth in their division, the St. John's IceCaps needed a win. With concerted efforts on both nights, they got not one, but two victories.

On Tuesday night, despite being outshot 39-21, the IceCaps stayed disciplined, focused, and played as a team. And it worked.

Both Gabriel Dumont and Morgan Ellis picked up a goal and an assist, Michael McCarron and Nikita Scherbak each hit the back of the net, and Bud Holloway added three assists to his tally. But the shining star of the night was netminder Zachary Fucale.

Coming off a brutal start against the Utica Comets last Friday night, in which he allowed three goals on four shots, Fucale shook it off and played an outstanding game. Kicking out all 39 shots he faced, including several highlight-reel saves in the third period, Fucale didn't just have a first star performance, he got the first shutout of his professional career.

The IceCaps looked to build upon that 4-0 win in the Wednesday night rematch. As seems to be the trend this season, an injury to one of the forwards on the parent Montreal Canadiens squad required a call-up of an IceCap. Jacob de la Rose, who's been quite the asset for the AHL team since returning from his last stint with the Habs, was the one to get the call when a lower-body injury sidelined Brian Flynn.

Unlike Tuesday night's contest in which both teams only racked up six penalty minutes, Wednesday night's affair was a gongshow.

Victor Bartley got the game going with his first goal as an IceCap, netting a power-play marker at 3:36 in the opening period. And so began the penalty minute competition.

The puck had barely dropped for the next faceoff when Syracuse's Luke Witkowski was flagged for a roughing infraction, and punches started to fly in a six-man line brawl. McCarron and Witkowski were each slapped with a game misconduct, while Dumont and Darren Dietz, and the Crunch's Mike Angelidis and Tye McGinn got five for fighting.

Mark MacMillan took full advantage after the scrum, potting another power-play goal for the team. But that lead was erased by the end of the opening frame, as the Crunch tied the game at two.

Down 3-2 in the third, everyone in attendance held their breath when Scherbak went down after an open-ice hit, prompting the training staff to run out and check on him. He returned for his next shift, and potted a beautiful power-play goal — the team's third of the game — five minutes into the third period.

Fucale, hot off shutting the door on the Crunch the previous night, was sharp again between the pipes, making some spectacular saves to keep the teams even and extend the game to overtime.

In the 3-on-3 period, Charles Hudon got the IceCaps their second straight victory when he snapped the puck past Adam Wilcox on a speedy breakaway.

With Fucale facing 39 shots in both games, and Wednesday night's 69 total penalty minutes, the IceCaps worked hard for their four points, bumping themselves back up into fourth place in the North Division.

Even though they were majorly outshot in both games (amassing 21 and 19 shots, respectively), the IceCaps proved it only matters what goes in the net.

The team is back in action on Saturday evening, when they play the first game of a back-to-back set versus the Toronto Marlies.