ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – St. John’s IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge could not hide his displeasure and distaste with the way his team is playing after a lackluster performance in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Albany Devils.
The IceCaps found themselves trailing 2-0 before the first period was seven minutes old, gave up 16 shots in the opening frame and went an embarrassing zero-for-eight on the power play en route to an uninspiring performance in front of 6,287 fans at Mile Once Centre.
McCambridge said the IceCaps play on Saturday was indicative of their efforts so far in the 2012-13 AHL season. When training camp opened, the club was expected to be amongst the top teams in the Eastern Conference with a chance to compete for the Calder Cup.
However, after 15 games they sport a less-than-stellar record of seven wins and eight losses, and have yet to establish a consistent or productive style of play. According to McCambridge, it all comes down to the fact the team is being outworked by their opponents.
“They see themselves as a skilled team, and they’re not that. They’re not that at all,” McCambridge said of his players. “They’re missing the consistency of work ethic that needs to take place right now. Our opponents, on a nightly basis, are outworking us … We’re not anywhere near where we need to be to play the game.”
Last year’s IceCaps squad, which advanced all the way to the AHL Eastern Conference Final before falling to the eventual league champs from Norfolk, forged a blue-collar identity early in the season and was consistently a hard-working, detailed-oriented group. That hasn’t been the case through 15 games of the 2012-13 campaign, with the team showing flashes of effective play one night, followed by bland and lifeless efforts the next game out.
“Our execution isn’t very good. I thought we weren’t fast enough tonight. It looked like we were playing with a tennis ball and they were playing with a hockey puck,” McCambridge said. “It’s not even close to being good enough for me. If you look at the way they’re playing now, they’re missing a step … It’s a team struggling to find its identity. At times we think we’re going to be a skilled team, and at times we think we’re going to be a hard working team. We’re still finding out exactly what we’re going to be.”
McCambridge is especially frustrated with the team’s struggles on the power play. In Saturday’s loss, the IceCaps failed to apply much pressure on the Devils when enjoying a man advantage and often struggled to even keep the puck in Albany’s end of the rink.
“In all honesty, the way the power play is going right now, I would rather not have the power play,” McCambridge said. “We have an inability to execute the systems that are in place on the power play. We have guys waiting on the side of the net for a bad-angled shot. We have D who are having trouble executing passes to get the penalty kill spread out.”
The IceCaps feeble power play has been a constant thorn in McCambridge’s side this season. He said Saturday that if the team could produce an effective power play, it might have resulted in two or three more wins by this point in the schedule.
“I think it would have helped us. It would have given us a chance to get ahead in some games and keep ourselves in games. It’s been a factor in most games,” said McCambridge.
The IceCaps did show a sense of urgency late in Saturday’s contest, blasting 21 shots at Albany goalie Jeff Frazee in the third period. McCambridge was not impressed by the third-period display, however, saying the game’s outcome was already decided by the time his players stepped up their efforts.
“It’s too little, too late. We needed that for the full game. The game was out of reach then,” said McCambridge. “We didn’t have enough guys who brought their best game tonight. We had six forwards and probably three defenseman who were playing tonight. And I thought our goaltender (Mark Dekanich) held us in for the most part.”
Jacob Josefson and Darcy Zajac gave Albany an early 2-0 lead on Saturday with goals at 5:37 and 6:20 respectively in the first period. Ivan Telegin put St. John’s on the score sheet at 14:12 of the opening period to cut the lead to 2-1.
Adam Larsson’s power play goal at 7:22 of the second gave Albany a 3-1 advantage. Maxime Macenauer brought St. John’s within one of the Devils just over two minutes later, but Bobby Butler’s marker at 12:57 of the middle frame restored Albany’s two-goal advantage.
Zajac’s second of the night at 8:51 of the third gave Albany a 5-2 advantage. A late goal by IceCaps forward Jason Gregoire cut the score to 5-3, but that was as close as St. John’s would get.
Frazee made 42 saves to earn the win in Albany’s net, while Dekanich stopped 28 shots in taking the loss for St. John’s.
The game’s three stars were Zajac, Adam Henrique and Telegin, respectively.
Darcy.MacRae@prohockeynews.com Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews