ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – The St. John’s IceCaps had plenty of reason to smile on Friday night as they finally ended a prolonged losing streak on home ice. The AHL club had lost eight straight games in St. John’s heading into Friday’s contest with the Hamilton Bulldogs, but put the streak to bed with a resounding 5-0 win.
“Relieved would be a good word,” said IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge after the game when asked what the mood was inside the team’s locker room. “We’ve worked hard enough in the last little while but haven’t gotten the wins we so desperately needed. Tonight I thought we had everybody playing really well. Special teams was good, our goaltending was outstanding. Everybody was pulling in the same direction. A really good win; especially on our home ice.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the IceCaps play Friday was the fact they did not allow the Bulldogs back in the game after building an early lead. In recent weeks the IceCaps had become notorious for earning an early advantage before ultimately coughing up the lead later in the game. Against Hamilton, McCambridge was adamant his players keep the pressure on the Bulldogs for a full 60 minutes.
“We knew we had a good first period but we also knew Hamilton was going to come out in the second with a really strong push,” McCambridge said. “To not let off the gas, to not get comfortable and pat ourselves on the back, to keep pushing forward was really important.”
Friday’s game was the first for St. John’s since the mid-week trade of Spencer Machacek. Last season Machacek was the team’s leading scorer and top forward, however he struggled to find his game throughout the 2012-13 campaign. In exchange for Machacek the IceCaps received winger Tomas Kubalik and defenseman Patrick Cullity from the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kubalik registered an assist in the win over Hamilton while Cullity looked very comfortable patrolling the defensive zone.
“The trade gave us a little spark, as in a fresh face in the lineup, a fresh face in the room. It gave us a different element on the ice and that helps,” said McCambridge. “You can see Tomas protects pucks well, he skates well and he’s an intelligent player. You can see he has some NHL savvy to him with the puck and where he is on the ice. Cullity was safe, moved the puck well. I thought he closed pretty well in his own zone. They’re two good additions.”
St. John’s enjoyed a fantastic start to Friday’s contest, using goals from Aaron Gagnon, Kael Mouillierat and Eric O’Dell to take a 3-0 lead before the halfway point of the first period. Josh Lunden and Jason Jaffray scored second-period goals to finish the scoring for St. John’s. Julian Melchiori registered two assists for the IceCaps, while O’Dell, Gagnon, Ben Chiarot, Will O’Neill, Josh Godfrey and Ben Maxwell each added a helper.
Mark Dekanich stopped 23 saves to earn the win and shutout for the IceCaps. Although he did not face a lot of shots, Dekanich did make some big saves early in the game when the Bulldogs were trying to get back in the contest.
“I thought Dekanich was really composed tonight. When pucks were dumped in our zone he had really good communication with our defensemen. He was in control of rebounds. It was a really solid, all around game for him. He earned the shutout,” said McCambridge.
Robert Mayer started in goal for Hamilton but was replaced by Dustin Tokarski after allowing three goals on six shots. Tokarski made 24 saves in a relief appearance.
The IceCaps and Bulldogs meet again tonight at Mile One Centre. Puck drop is 7:35 p.m. local time.
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