The St. John’s IceCaps returned back home after a two-week road trip through a stormy Central New York, where they collected four wins in six games.
The IceCaps are neck-and-neck with the Utica Comets in the standings, so the series against the Rochester Americans is critical for their post-season hopes. Zach Redmond, who is nursing a lower-body injury, remained on the shelf, while Daniel Carr and David Broll were healthy scratches for the St. Patrick’s Day contest.
It was a trademark slow start for the IceCaps. They were outshot 6-1 early on by the Amerks, who took advantage of an early power play to generate their chances. Even after a successful penalty kill by the IceCaps, the Americans managed to keep their opponents hemmed in their own end for an extended period.
Charlie Lindgren, however, was the difference maker. He turned away every chance, and came up with a few big saves to keep Rochester off the board.
Charlie Lindgren flashes the leather on Nick Baptiste! pic.twitter.com/m4XJn7ssqc— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2017
The IceCaps didn’t manage to get on the board during their power play, but they looked dangerous for the first time in awhile.
Chris Terry uncorked a pair of slapshots that knocked a couple of Americans to the ice. Not long after that, it was Mark MacMillan who got his team on the board. The former North Dakota standout stole an errant pass before walking in to beat Linus Ullmark, putting the IceCaps up 1-0.
Lindgren continued to hold the fort for the rest of the period, with St. John’s winning the shot battle 12-10 after 20 minutes.
While slow starts are a current trend for the IceCaps, so are dominant second periods. And Friday night was no exception.
It took them less than four minutes to find the back of the net, with Jeremy Grégoire breaking in alone and sneaking a puck behind Ullmark. The puck sat on the goal line before Gregoire crashed the crease, forcing the puck over the line while Rochester scrambled to stop the play.
Ryan Johnston sparked the team’s third goal of the game. Johnston fed the puck to Stefan Matteau who dished it off to Bobby Farnham. Farnham out-waited the Rochester defence before feeding the puck back to Johnston, who then rocketed home his fifth of the year.
Ryan Johnston starts the rush, then finishes it with a rocket of a goal, great set up by Bobby Farnham pic.twitter.com/BxIDq7Pxpp— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2017
Rochester finally solved Lindgren late in the period, when Jean Dupuy capitalized on a Julien Brouillette turnover. Dupuy’s third of the year ended the shutout bid for Lindgren, who had been absolutely flawless in net up to that point.
The third period was all Lindgren once more, as he turned away all nine shots he faced; preserving the IceCaps’ two-goal lead. Despite only four shots in their favour in the final 20 minutes, it was the incredible goaltending by Ullmark that kept St. John’s from increasing their lead.
Ullmark goes around the world for a crazy save! pic.twitter.com/MEIoOLRKIh— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 18, 2017
A late empty-net push by Rochester wasn’t enough as MacMillian and the fourth line kept them at bay, sealing the IceCaps’ 30th victory of the season.
Depending on the outcome of the Syracuse Crunch versus Utica Comets game, the IceCaps could reclaim the final North Division playoff spot with 68 points. If Utica holds on to defeat the Crunch, the IceCaps will be pushed out once again, based on points percentage. Another two points this weekend would be a a major boost to their post-season hopes.
The Americans and IceCaps meet again tomorrow at 7:30 PM NDT.
1. Charlie Lindgren (31 Saves)
2. Jeremy Gregoire (1 goal)
3. Jacob de la Rose (4 shots)