ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – The St. John’s IceCaps looked like they might finally be turning the corner offensively in Friday’s contest with the Albany Devils at Mile One Centre. The IceCaps has consistent offensive pressure throughout the game and used crisp puck movement and heads-up play to create a number of quality scoring chances. The result was a 4-3 shootout victory over Albany in front of an enthusiastic and sold-out hometown crowd.
“The goals finally came,” said IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray. “It’s nice to get three goals (in regulation time) up on the scoreboard tonight from a few different sources. I hope this means we’re breaking out of our offensive slump.”
Jaffray scored the winning goal in the shootout after pulling the puck to his left and outwaiting Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid, who eventually sprawled on the ice, allowing the IceCaps captain to slide the puck into the far corner of the net.
“The last couple of years I haven’t been very successful in shootout attempts, so I try not to think about a move on the way down. I just tried to take what the goalie gave me. He waited me out pretty good but I had a little more patience at the end and slid it into the far corner,” said Jaffray. “I really wasn’t expecting to get the call (in the shootout). The guys that did shoot today, like O’Dell, Burmistrov and Maxwell, are pretty nifty in shootout practice. I’m more of a push-the-puck-at-the-goalie-guy, rather than dangle like those guys.”
IceCaps goalie Mark Dekanich looked very solid throughout Friday’s game and was especially sharp in the shootout. He stopped four of five Albany shooters, pumping his arm in celebration after stonewalling A dam Henrique on the Devils last shootout attempt.
“It’s obviously a lot of pressure. These extra points mean a lot at the end of the season. I need to stop at least four or five and hope we get two,” said Dekanich. “I just have to try and react. We don’t do too much video work on shootout moves so I have to react and make some saves.”
St. John’s got on the scoreboard first on Friday, using a Ray Sawada goal at 1:54 of the second period to take a 1-0 lead. The goal was his first of the season and came from an unexpected source considering the line of Sawada, John Albert and Maxime Macenauer are used primarily as a checking unit.
“It’s good when your checking line can contribute to your offense,” said Sawada. “When you’re struggling to score, everyone has to dig down and find a way to win. We’re not usually the ones counted on for goals, so whenever we get a goal we know it’s a real plus for the team.”
Carl Klingberg put St. John’s up 2-0 at 8:09 of the second period, but Albany cut the lead to 2-1 when Jay Leach beat a screened Dekanich with a slap shot from the blue line at 11:01 of the middle frame.
Albany tied the game at two with a power play goal from Henrique at 3:45 of the third. St. Johns retook the lead when Zach Redmond finished off a beautiful three-way passing play with Eric O’Dell and Ivan Telegin at 10:48 of the third period. The Devils then used another power play goal, this one from Jacob Josefson, with just over two minutes left in the period to tie the game at three and force overtime.
Dekanich stopped 29 shots to earn the win in goal for St. John’s. Kinkaid made 26 saves in Albany’s net.
The IceCaps and Devils meet again tonight at Mile Once Center. Puck drop goes at 7:35 p.m. local time.
Notes: Friday’s game was military appreciation night in St. John’s. In honor of Canadian troops and war veterans, the IceCaps wore camouflage uniforms and saluted a number of soldiers during a ceremonial puck drop … The game’s three stars were Jaffray, Sawada and Leach, respectively … Taking part in the shootout for the IceCaps were Alexander Burmistrov (goal), Ben Maxwell (stopped), Klingberg (stopped), O’Dell (stopped) and Jaffray (goal). Albany’s shooters included Mattias Tedenby (goal), Matt Anderson (stopped), Joe Whitney (stopped), Bobby Butler (stopped) and Henrique (stopped).
Darcy.MacRae@prohockeynews.com Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews