Friday, 8 January 2016

Icecaps 1, Pirates 5

I was looking forward to the IceCaps game against the Portland Pirates tonight on RDS. I’ve been heartened by the improved play of Jacob de la Rose lately, he’s been very noticeable in the last few games, after being basically invisible early on, due to injuries in part. He now looks like he's eminently recallable, he’s all over the ice and taking charge. His size would be welcome on the Canadiens. I was fully on board that he be sent down to the AHL before training camp, what with the numbers game and waivers situation and all, along with the fact that he didn’t impress me last spring. Now, I see him up with le Grand Club after the trade deadline if he keeps this up.

Michaël Bournival is another player who’s a pleasant surprise. And surprise may be the wrong word, he has the talent such he should be a premier player in the AHL, and he’s playing like it now, flying up and down the ice, playing penalty kill and powerplay, doing very well. It’s just that all the injuries, the concussions make you start to doubt. If he keeps playing like this, he won’t sneak through waivers again next year if they try to send him down after training camp, we’ll have to make room for him, or make a decision.

Lucas Lessio I’ll watch for as well, he’s taken to his new team like a duck to water, with 5 points in 6 games. He stands out if only by contrast, mixed in with our mostly smallish forwards, with his big frame. Great to see him contribute, and make us start to think in terms of maybe more than just the AHL. We can dream, can’t we?

On defence, with Mark Barberio called up, there’s a lot of minutes and powerplay time available to be claimed, and since he’s a leftie, I’m looking squarely at Mac Bennett. He’s not been impressive so far in his AHL career, and we’ve waited so long for the kid to turn pro, I’m getting a little impatient. The time is now Mac, your contract is up at the end of the season. Don’t make the brain trust look past you when they're thinking of the future.


Not too much to report in the first period, at least anything positive when it comes to our young heroes.  The IceCaps gave up a goal early in the first on a defensive breakdown that Stéphane Leroux and Norman Flynn attributed mainly to Jacob de la Rose, who seemed to wander aimlessly and get burned.

Then, on a five-on-three penalty kill, they allowed another goal to fall behind 2-0.  Joel Hanley had been sent off for a five-minute major for boarding, when he checked a Pirate from behind, propelling him head-first into the boards, and then Morgan Ellis joined him in the box for a tripping call, on a scrambling effort to cover a rush on Zachary Fucale's net.

The IceCaps are reasonably proficient on the penalty kill, but being two players down for the full two minutes was too much for the boys.  Zack Fucale got beaten on a one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Meanwhile, the IceCaps weren't exactly pressuring Mike McKenna, the Portland goalie.  Just as the RDS team was remarking that he hadn't had much to do in the game so far, play was going the other way.  Zachary Fucale made a save on a dangerous shot, but gave up a fat rebound in the slot that was cashed in for a 3-0 lead for the baddies.

Bud Holloway closed the gap a few minutes later on a powerplay, on which Mike McCarron did everything right, by giving the Pirates goalie an IMAX screen.  The goal helped morale a little, at least mine in any case, but the shot totals told the story, with Portland leading 32-16 after two periods.  

Mike wasn't finished trying to spark something though, he got involved into a brief scuffle in front of the Pirates net, which quickly devolved into a fight against Sena Acolatse, a tough kid who didn't hesitate to tango although he was a full head shorter than his partner.  The linesmen stepped in to put a stop to it before he got mauled by Big Mac.

So the table was set for the a comeback, to continue the strong showing at home for the IceCaps, who have lost only once at home in regulation in front of their fans.  

Except our boys didn't look that threatening.  They had trouble controlling the puck and sustaining any kind of pressure.  It got me thinking of Guy Carbonneau's maxim that coaching in the AHL is the toughest job there is in hockey, since when things are rolling and you have a good team with good players, the parent club will raid you for your best elements and upset your team chemistry and line combos and defence pairings. 

 And if you're barely holding it together, having a difficult year, you'll still get raided and lose your best players, which will make it even harder to stay afloat and actually compete.

I thought of this as I wondered why the 'Caps weren't more in sync, why they couldn't mount any kind of attack, and realized that they were missing three big pieces in Mark Barberio, Sven Andrighetto and Daniel Carr.  Try as he might, work as hard as he does, Gabriel Dumont was having a hard time palliating for their loss on the Top 6.

What didn't help was Jacob de la Rose taking a hooking penalty in the offensive zone.  The Pirates' Connor Brickley scored a beautiful goal shortly into the ensuing powerplay, with a between-the-legs move in front of Zach's net, and a bank of the puck off Zach, off Josiah Didier's left shin to see it roll into the cage.

Sylvain Lefebvre shortened his bench and stacked two lines with eight minutes to go, trying to get back in the game, and even pulled his goalie with three minutes to go, but all that got was an empty-netter scored against to make the final score 5-1.

So an unfortunate lackluster effort for the televisions audience from the IceCaps, and an overall poor showing by the three players I was expecting good things from.  

And not to go too far off on a tangent, a game that starkly reinforces the fact that drafting and developing prospects is a hit-and-miss endeavour, when I compare our IceCaps to the fantastic farm team lineups I was conjuring a couple years back with Magnus Nygren, Daniel Prybil, Sebastian Collberg and Tim Bozon, who were going to bring us to the Promised Land. 

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