The third month of the season is complete and the St. John’s IceCaps played 11 times, winning six games, losing three in regulation, and losing another two in overtime. The result was 14 points on the month, for a points-earned percentage of 0.636.
December was one of the most successful calendar months under Sylvain Lefebvre’s tenure as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens’ farm team, propelling the team into a playoff position as the halfway point of the season nears.
In December, the IceCaps dealt with some roster adversity as the Montreal Canadiens came knocking, with numerous call-ups necessary. Sven Andrighetto only played three games, top defender Mark Barberio only played two, and first-line centre Michael McCarron was only in he AHL lineup once.
In addition, the injury bug hit two key players: November’s first star, Nikita Scherbak, and top goal-scorer, Charles Hudon, were both lost for the majority of the month. In the face of all this adversity, a weaker team would crumble, but the IceCaps dug deep.
No player stepped up more to make up for the loss of the majority of the IceCaps offensive contributors than Daniel Audette. With McCarron’s call-up to the Canadiens, Audette was given a chance at top-line centre and delivered in spades, scoring five goals and adding seven assists in 11 games. He was a persistent threat on the attack, and emerged as a future offensive hopeful for the organization.
Daniel Audette blows one by Demko to lock up the game for St. John's pic.twitter.com/VePEXKjVD7— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 17, 2016
Despite only playing in six out of the 11 games this month, Terry’s offensive contribution was too great to ignore. He scored five goals and added six assists in only six games, a remarkable rate of 1.83 points per game, including a game-winning goal during a three-point performance.
Chris Terry rockets home his tenth goal of the year, now tied with Hudon for the team lead pic.twitter.com/HgFcXOV2YB— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 15, 2016
Jacob de la Rose
Lost in the questionable forward depth for the Montreal Canadiens, de la Rose has quietly become one of the steadiest forwards on the IceCaps team. He wasn’t putting up huge numbers offensively, but he’s played large minutes all season for the team. In December, his offensive contribution flourished, with three goals and five assists in 11 games.
Jacob de la Rose adds to his outstanding month with a power play goal pic.twitter.com/CT0wbkIdiV— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 1, 2017
Goal of the Month
Great passing sets up Daniel Audette's game winner in OT, three points on the night for him. pic.twitter.com/vPKUUUgXFD— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 30, 2016
As noted, the IceCaps’ roster was drastically challenged in December, and the team depth really stepped up to shoulder the burden. Six different players scored game-winning goals, including Julien Brouillette, Jeremy Grégoire, Yannick Veilleux, and Stefan Matteau, showing a team-wide commitment to not let the season slip away.
Two players who specifically deserve recognition were the fourth-line bruiser David Broll and trusty, yet not flashy, fourth-line centre Mark MacMillan. Broll put up four of his five points on the season in December with two goals and two assists. Meanwhile MacMillan doubled his production on the season with three points.
Finally, a cheer for Sven Andrighetto who put up six points in three games in December in the AHL, proving yet again that he is too strong for this league. Yet despite four recalls to the Montreal Canadiens in December, he was unable to carve out for himself a spot on the team. Now with his waiver exemption expired and returned to the IceCaps it is unknown what his future may hold.
Although he made second star, Chris Terry gets a jeer for injuring Charles Hudon, who had just recovered from a previous injury.
Oh man, this hit looks even worse from this angle. Hudon was taken to the dressing room, with a bloody nose. pic.twitter.com/UhfE2AwUDb— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 15, 2016
Two veterans who failed to step up when called upon were Stefan Matteau and Philip Samuelsson. Matteau was continually given opportunities to pick up his game by being put on the first line, yet failed to produce with any regularity, scoring only one goal and adding two assists in eight games. He was dealing with some injuries, so it’s possible that it affected his game, but a team-leading 31 penalty minutes in December, adding to his total which currently ranks third and a mere four PIMs from the league lead, don’t earn him much sympathy.
As for Samuelsson, he plays big minutes on defence but fails to provide any sort of offensive support. In seven games in December he added nothing to the offence. With only four points on the season, Samuelsson is looking at his worst point total since his rookie season in 2011-12.
Charlie Lindgren was merely human in December, posting a 0.905 Sv% and 2.85 GAA, still good enough to win four games out of eight.
Finally, amidst all the need for forwards, AHL-contracted Mathieu Gagnon was recalled three times from the Brampton Beast of the ECHL during December, yet never played a single game. Fellow Beast Brandon MacLean was signed to a PTO and played in a game instead, begging the question: why was Gagnon signed to an AHL deal in the first place?