Crunch defeat IceCaps in 1st of 3-game exhibtion series: rapid reaction

- October 4th, 2012

CORNER BROOK, Nfld. — On a personal note, I must confess it was nice to be in an arena covering hockey, despite the NHL lockout taking the latest steps, with the league banging the first two weeks of the regular season.

The St. John’s IceCaps dropped a 4-1 decision to the Syracuse Crunch on Thursday night at Pepsi Centre is what was a typical, shake-off-the-rust, yet pretty intense exhibition game featuring two teams expected to make some noise in the American Hockey League this season.

We understand that most AHL teams are bursting with optimism at this time of the year and figure to be feeling better with the arrival of several players who would normally be ticketed for NHL duty.

As far as the game goes, it was anything but a blowout.

Syracuse scored first as Mark Barbeiro found Cory Conacher with a slick backdoor pass that IceCaps goalie Chris Carrozzi had virtually no chance to stop.

Ben Maxwell replied for the IceCaps late in the second period, banging home his own rebound after a big shot from the right point by Paul Postma during a power play. Maxwell looked pretty good, but he missed a glorious opportunity for a second goal.

Didn’t get the official saves, but Carrozzi looked pretty sharp in his 30 minutes and change of work, giving up only one goal before leaving the crease to Brandon product Tyler Plante with just over nine minutes to go in the second period.

Plante gave up a pair of goals, the first of which was the result of some miscommunication behind the net and saw him scrambling before the Crunch finally pushed the puck in for a short-handed marker.

The third goal by the Crunch came shortly after a power-play expired, while the fourth went into an empty net for the second shortie of the contest.

With nothing to lose in an exhibition game, liked the concept of pulling the goalie with just over two minutes and facing a two-goal deficit. But after losing the draw, the Crunch found the yawning cage and it was basically light’s out.

Liked what I saw from NHL veteran Brian Sutherby, who was very involved, blocking shots, taking the body, killing penalties, moving the puck on the power play. Sutherby is coming off a back injury that limited him to 15 games with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL last season and is determined to show he can still play. If Sutherby can stay healthy, I think there’s a chance the Jets take a look at him once the lockout ends. Could replace some of the grit lost with the departure of Tanner Glass to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Spencer Machacek, who played on a line with Patrice Cormier and Sutherby, likes what he’s seen from the NHL vet so far.

“It’s huge anytime you get a veteran like that,” said Machacek, tipping his hat to IceCaps GM Craig Heisinger for making the move to bring Sutherby in for a look on a pro tryout offer. “I remember playing against the Manitoba Moose, they always had a couple of older guys. He’s a team guy. He was blocking shots, getting in a fight, that’s what our team needs.”

Postma showed plenty of poise with the puck (no surprise there), unleashed a few big slappers from the point and also caught my attention with a thundering check in the neutral zone that sent a Crunch player flying.

I asked IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge about the hit after the game and he made it clear that he liked what he saw, but doesn’t envision Postma suddenly turning into a banger.

“What I saw out of him in that instance is that he looked like he was starting to get a little frustrated, with guys finishing checks on him and he had a little sandpaper and a little edge there,” said McCambridge. “I like the fact he finished his check, but he’s an offensive guy who is going to carry the puck and make sure he’s good in his own zone. He skated well and thought he moved the puck pretty good.”

There was a scary moment during the third period as Crunch centre Vladislav Namestnikov hit IceCaps forward Ryan Schnell from behind and into the boards. Schnell was shaken up and his status will be updated in the morning. Namestnikov got a five-minute major but the IceCaps were unable to convert.

Prospect Ivan Telegin showed a few flashes, but also took an undisciplined penalty and had a few defensive lapses in the contest. Love the upside, but it seems likely that Telegin will need significant time in the minors to round out his game. He’s a powerful skater who is going to put up points. But, the patient approach is almost always the best route to take. There’s no need to rush Telegin, who figures to have a bright future ahead of him.

The IceCaps and Crunch continue their three-game exhibition series for the Mary Brown’s Cup on Friday in Stephenville and we’ll be there to check it out.

We’ll give the last word to McCambridge, on his take of the overall showing:

“There was some rust on everybody out there,” said McCambridge. “But as a group, we had a close look at some guys we didn’t know much about. We’ve got a game under our belt. (Friday) we’ll have a different lineup and assess from there.”

Categories: Hockey

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