This weekend marks the end of the AHL regular season and the St. John’s IceCaps are looking to earn a playoff spot as they head into their final two games at Mile One Centre this Friday and Saturday night.
Currently, their magic number sits at two points. This means that any combination of one of either an IceCaps win or a Utica Comets loss will see St. John’s clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Their opponent will be their truest rival. The Toronto Marlies, a team that sits atop the North Division by a single point over the Syracuse Crunch, will be looking to finalize their conquest of the group.
Obviously, both teams have something to play for so fans should expect two intensely fought games.
The IceCaps played three games in as many nights last weekend and the outcome gave real hope to the team that a playoff berth was possible. They lost the first game to the Albany Devils before coming out in full force and shutting out both the Binghamton Senators and Utica on consecutive nights.
Zachary Fucale and a returning Charlie Lindgren combined to stop 49 shots during those contests. A 1-0 victory against Utica on Sunday afternoon allowed the IceCaps to gain some separation from the Comets. Utica further impacted their post-season chances by throwing away their game in hand on Wednesday night in a big 7-2 loss to Syracuse.
Should the IceCaps qualify for the playoffs, they would become the first Montreal Canadiens AHL farm team to make the playoffs since the 2011 Hamilton Bulldogs.
In the way of their quest for two points stands the Marlies, who have had the IceCaps’ number this season, winning six out of 10 games. Remarkably, no game between these two teams has gone to extra time this year.
The Marlies are 8-2 in their last 10 games overall, have scored the most goals (239) and given up the fewest (200) in the North Division. The IceCaps continue to struggle on the penalty kill, but Chris Terry is a power-play wrecking ball, scoring 18 goals with the man advantage to lead the league.
The Marlies are loaded with veteran players such as Brooks Laich, Colin Greening, and Milan Michalek, all buried in the AHL by the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a result, these players allow the Marlies to have much-needed experience to go along with their best prospects: Brendan Leipsic, Andreas Johnsson, Kerby Rychel, and Seth Griffith. The Marlies also added Cal O’Reilly on loan from the Rochester Americans, and he gives Toronto an additional offensive boost. They are clearly a very strong team at this point and should give the IceCaps plenty of trouble.
The last time these two teams played against each other was April 4 in Toronto, where the IceCaps were unable to hold on to a two-goal lead and eventually fell to the Marlies 5-2.
As this is the last season for the AHL in St. John’s, it would certainly be a nice treat for the fans to see their team in the running for the Calder Cup.