Just five months after being eliminated from the Eastern Conference Final during their inaugural season the St. John’s Ice Caps are ready to get the 2012-13 season started to prove their first season wasn’t a fluke.
Last season after the IceCaps made the move from Winnipeg, fans in St. John’s didn’t know quite what to expect. But, they soon realized they would be treated to a great campaign as the team almost made it to the Calder Cup Finals but were swept by the Norfolk Admirals.
Season 2 started off with a statement from IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge as he said Wednesday, “We would like to, again, push hard and deep into the playoffs to be one of the final four teams and then some.”
We will now take a quick look at the IceCaps this upcoming season to see what questions still remain, and just what we have to look forward too.
Captain, My Captain
IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray suffered a season-ending neck injury on March 28th in a game against the Norfolk Admirals after he was hammed into the boards by Admirals defencemen Radko Gudas. The injury to Jaffray played a huge role as the IceCaps had to participate in their first post-season without a captain to lead them. Jaffray did not suit up for any exhibition games, nor will he play Saturday in Springfield – however it is likely he will make his return next Friday in the IceCaps’ home opener.
Front and Forward
Aside from Jaffray, the IceCaps have their core guys returning to the team up front. In order of production returning guys are: Jason King (22 goals), Spencer Machacek (18goals, 32 assists), Patrice Cormier (18 goals), and Carl Klingberg (15 goals), all of which also spend some time with the Winnipeg Jets last season. Of course, depth guys such as Ben Maxwell, Aaron Gagnon, John Albert, Ray Sawada, Max Macenauer, Kevin Clarke, Eric O’Dell and Jason Gregoire will also be wearing the white and blue.
If you didn't think it wasn’t possible for the St. John’s defence to become even stronger than last season, think again. Despite losing guys like Arturs Kulda, and Brett Festerling the IceCaps look to have another strong back end yet again this fall.
Due to the NHL-lockout, NHL-ready Paul Postma and Zach Redmond – guys who had fantabulous seasons with the IceCaps last season will once again suit up in St. John’s. Former Portland Pirates captain Dean Arsene will also accompany the blueline; something which is great news as the IceCaps lacked a sense of leadership on the defensive end last season. Derek Meech will also be in the Blue and White next season, despite only playing 3 Regular season games for the IceCaps, Meech appeared in all 15-playoff games and was a pure stud. Rookies Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori and Will O’Neill round out the final spots on defence – all of which spent various amounts of time last season with the IceCaps.
Heart of the Team
Last season,the IceCaps found themselves faced with a goaltending situation as the team had three goaltenders fighting for the starting position. After all was said and done, rookie goaltender Eddie Pasquale prevailed and took advantage immediately.
Pasquale posted a 23-12-1 record with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. In 15 post-season games, Pasquale posted a .923 save percentage.
This season however he finds himself in another goaltending battle as Mark Dekanich is willing and able to take the job which he earned last season. Dekanich lead the AHL in save percentage just two seasons ago (.931), but unfortunately missed all of the 2011-12 season due to injury. But, with so many back-to-back games this season he will see plenty of ice time.
On paper, the team looks ready to produce another deep playoff run again this season, especially with head coach Keith McCambridge backing that statement up in his own words. Whether or not the IceCaps do repeat depends on how they sit at the end of the season; but for now they'll take it one game at a time, starting with Game 1 Saturday night in Springfield.