The St. John’s IceCaps are headed into game four of their best-of-five series against the Syracuse Crunch with their backs against the wall.
With the entire Montreal Canadiens front office looking from the stands, the IceCaps fell 3-2 to the Crunch in game three. Looking down on Sylvain Lefebvre and his troops were General Manager Marc Bergevin, Senior VP Rick Dudley, Assistant General Manager Larry Carriere, VP of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins, Director of Player Development Martin Lapointe, Canadiens Head Coach Claude Julien, and Pro Scout Mark Mowers.
What they saw was a team that gave up two early goals, but fought hard to fight back and tie the game on goals by Zach Redmond and Stefan Matteau. They saw Michael McCarron play an angry and effective game, albeit bordering on undisciplined as he took three minor penalties, Charles Hudon constantly creating high danger scoring chances, the professional debut of Noah Juulsen, the good and bad of Nikita Scherbak and Charlie Lindgren making an impossible save.
Charlie Lindgren with an insane, snow angel save with everyone crashing the crease pic.twitter.com/b2uKOUFGWr— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 27, 2017
The Habs top brass might not be back on Friday to watch the game, but if they were they would need to see the absolute best effort by every single IceCaps player if the team hopes to battle on to game five.
The IceCaps have yet to beat the Crunch in regulation in Syracuse this season, and they need to do it twice in two nights if they hope to stay alive in the Calder Cup race. Syracuse, meanwhile, only lost two games in a row at home three times this season.
The Crunch are able to count on defenceman Matt Taomina to set the pace, while Byron Froese, Matthew Peca, Erik Condra, and Tye McGinn pose a constant threat on the attack. The IceCaps also need to look out for Jake Dotchin who is on a headhunting mission, throwing a fair amount of questionable hits all series.
Jake Dotchin just high sticked Matteau in the face without the puck, no call— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 26, 2017
The deck is stacked against the IceCaps on Friday, but they should not be counted out. They have been in playoff mode well before the post-season even started, as they battled to make it to the playoffs. This is a hardened squad that has overcome the odds several times this season.
It’s unknown whether the IceCaps will use a different line-up than they did last game, but few change should be expected. Jeremy Gregoire was a game-time decision prior to game three, but the team decided to insert Juulsen into the mix, going with 11 forwards and seven defencemen. Inserting Gregoire would be a huge boost to the fourth line, but rust might be a concern.
The game starts at 7:00pm EST, and can be watched on AHLlive.com, listened to on the Icecaps website, and read about right here once the recap is available.
Game five, if necessary, would be on Saturday at 7:00pm.
UPDATE: Here are the potential lines for tonight, based on what was seen at practice.
Some changes being made with McCarron moving down a line, breaking up the Matteau/De La Rose/Friberg line, while Scherbak goes back with Hudon and Chris Terry. Meanwhile the fourth line will look a bit different with Niki Petti coming back in for Mark MacMillan and Anthony Camara returning as well. On defence Noah Juulsen will get a second start, this time as part of a regular pairing, replacing Keegan Lowe in the line-up.
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