The first game back home wasn't kind to the St. John's IceCaps, falling 4-1 to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Losing that contest was all they needed to be officially eliminated from Calder Cup contention, thanks to the Utica Comets and the Portland Pirates grabbing their own victories that night.
During the rematch the following night, the IceCaps fell even harder, allowing the Phantoms to get a shutout in a 4-0 loss.
After their weekend battle with the Phantoms, the IceCaps had a long stretch of six days off before heading into another weekend series, this time against the third-place Comets.
Utica Comets - Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10
Last time they met: Friday, March 18 (2-1 OT win)
When these teams last matched up in mid-March, it was the start of a long seven-game road trip for the St. John's IceCaps. The whole trip ended up being a disastrous one, where they lost five out of seven games played. The beginning of the trip, however, seemed promising. Both the IceCaps and Utica Comets were looking for a playoff spot, so both teams came to play.
Goaltender Zachary Fucale got a much-needed confidence booster after losing his five previous starts, kicking out 30 of the 31 shots that Utica launched his way, and being named second star of the night for the effort.
The IceCaps, like the Montreal Canadiens, saw many new faces come and go as the season progressed. For this particular series, it was newcomer Chris Joyaux's chance to make his IceCaps debut after signing an amateur tryout contract (ATO) just two days prior (a deal which was terminated just yesterday).
Jeremy Grégoire was the first to light up the scoreboard when he notched his fourth goal of the season with Brandon McNally and Mark MacMillan picking up the assists.
The second period was even keel with no scored, but the Comets kicked it up a notch during the final frame, out-shooting the IceCaps 12-1.
The IceCaps had better pressure in the third period, putting on the offensive pressure but unable to hit the target. The Comets tied it up when Carter Bancks flipped a wrist shot past Fucale with just 10 minutes left. Utica kept the pressure on, out-shooting St. John's 14-1 in the final 20, but the IceCaps held on to take the game to a little thing the IceCaps like to call "all in a days work" (aka overtime).
The IceCaps were no stranger to a little overtime battle, this being their 18th time of the season to that point. When Morgan Ellis pushed the puck around the wall from the corner to Max Friberg, he took off with Charles Hudon backing him up. Friberg snapped a rocket glove side of Joe Cannata just 1:19 into overtime for the win and first-star honours.
Both the Toronto Marlies and Albany Devils have clinched the top two playoff spots in the North Division. The Utica Comets, who are sitting in third place with 81 points, are looking to be the next in line. The St. John's IceCaps slipped to sixth place and are officially out of the playoff race, but can make life difficult for their opponent. They will have the services of Michael McCarron and Jacob de la Rose, both back on reassignment after long stints in the NHL, to help them play the role of spoiler.