CORNER BROOK, Nfld. — Arrived in Newfoundland late Tuesday night and caught the on-ice sessions of St. John’s IceCaps training camp on Wednesday morning.
The top farm team of the Winnipeg Jets is now three days into camp and players are eager to see some game action against guys who won’t be prospective teammates, that much was clear during a spirited scrimmage at Pepsi Centre.
The final result was a 4-3 win for Team White, which was powered by the skill of Russian forward Alex Burmistrov, who looks nothing like a guy who is going to be mailing it in because he would prefer to be in the KHL playing for his hometown team and taking home a larger pay cheque.
Burmistrov scored a pair of goals, one on a deflection and another on a penalty shot, but he was stopped during the shootout — which went into sudden death and needed eight rounds and 16 shooters to complete.
As pointed out by IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge, the skill is obvious but it’s the work ethic and positive attitude that’s really shining through right now.
The true test will begin once the regular season — and the bus rides — begin, but Burmistrov is passing the test so far and I don’t foresee any problems for him during his first stop in the minors.
At the end of the day, he loves the game and wants to continue to improve. Motivation won’t be lacking and with strong leadership down on the farm, Burmistrov should be a point-per-game player and that confidence should only help him once the NHL labour issues are finally solved.
Ben Maxwell had the other goal for Team White. Eric O’Dell and Will O’Neill (with the clincher) scored in the shootout.
Team Blue got goals from Carl Klingberg, Brian Sutherby and Ivan Telegin, who added the lone goal of shootout.
Mark Dekanich got the win, Eddie Pasquale the shootout loss.
The IceCaps face the Syracuse Crunch on Thursday at Pepsi Centre in the first of three exhibition games to be played in Newfoundland.
The current Crunch rosters features 15 members of the Norfolk Admirals squad that swept the IceCaps in the Eastern Conference final and went on to capture the Calder Cup.
In case you hadn’t heard, the top farm club of the Tampa Bay Lightning moved to Syracuse during the off-season.
“We’re playing against a team that knocked us out last year and it’s a good test for us,” aid IceCaps winger Jason King, who is excited to play a pro game in his hometown.
Other takeaways from my first look at the IceCaps:
* RW Norm Ezekial immediately caught my eye. The former Barrie Colts tough guy works his tail off and just might be another one of those diamond in the rough finds by IceCaps GM and Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger. Ezekial oozes grit and finished all of his checks. Figure that will continue in games and he’s a prime candidate to drop the gloves vs Crunch. Might have to start in ECHL due to the trickle-down of players because of the lockout, but he’ll remain on the radar. Underdog story to keep your eyes on.
* Goaltending is going to be rock solid. Eddie Pasquale emerged from a three-man system with experienced guys David Aebischer (a Stanley Cup winner) and Peter Mannino last year and showed strong development and now he’s going to be asked to compete with former AHL All-star Mark Dekanich, who is coming off an ankle injury but is an elite netminder at this level and might have been the Columbus Blue Jackets No. 1 last year due to struggles of Steve Mason. Instead, former Moose stopper Curtis Sanford played those minutes. Spoke with Pasquale and he’s excited about working with Dekanich. Be sure to check out my story on him at winnipegsun.com later today and in Thursday’s Sun. Plan to speak with Dekanich over the next few days as well.
* There’s a lot to like on the blue line as well. Can’t emphasize enough what it could mean for Derek Meech and Paul Postma to be down here, second-year pro Zach Redmond is excited to take the next step in his development and rookie Julian Melchiori should fit right in. Dean Arsene is a winner and an important veteran presence who should help show many of the youngsters the ropes and show them what it’s like to be a pro on and off the ice.
* For those wondering, Jason Jaffray is back skating and taking some contact after enduring neck fusion surgery late last season. Had a nice chat with him today and while he’s made significant progress, he won’t be appearing in any pre-season games and is doubtful for the season opener. However, Jaffray is excited to be back on the ice and expects to have a big season.