Telegram Sports Editor-Cedar Park, Texas — For the third time in four American Hockey League playoff rounds, the St. John’s IceCaps head into Game 2 having dropped the series opener, but the IceCaps remain as confident as ever as they get ready for another go at the Texas Stars tonight outside Austin.
The Stars, the best team through the AHL’s regular season, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the Calder Cup final Sunday night with a 6-3 win over the IceCaps.
Texas scored a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and an empty net tally on the IceCaps, but it was a killer second period which led to the IceCaps’ downfall as Michael Hutchinson let in three goals on four shots.
Not that anyone was blaming the goalie for the loss. Hutchinson has been lights out for St. John’s in the playoffs, and certainly lacked some support Sunday, although shots by Chris Mueller and Scott Glennie that beat Hutchinson high to the glove side might be considered save-worthy.
“They’ve got a lot of skilled players over there,” said St. John’s rookie Adam Lowry. “And if you give them time and space, they’ll make plays.
“We have to give Hutch a chance back there.”
St. John’s outshot Texas 29-23, 24-12 over the final 40 minutes but couldn’t solve Stars goalie Cristopher Nilstorp who was good when he needed to be in the third period.
The IceCaps are looking to avoid going back to Mile One Centre for Games 3, 4 and possibly 5 down two games. In Calder Cup finals history, only three teams of the 40 teams to lose the opening two games in the best-of-seven format have rebounded to win the championship.
“We had a few breakdowns, sure, but we’re a great team,” said forward Eric O’Dell. “We’ve gotten here for a reason.”
“We realize it’s one game,” added coach Keith McCambridge, “and we realize we need to be better.”
O’Dell admitted the IceCaps might have been guilty of doing too much observing and not quite enough playing through the first 20 minutes Sunday when Texas grabbed a 1-0 lead on AHL MVP and scoring leader Travis Morin’s goal.
But the IceCaps seemed to settle in after that, outshooting the Stars 13-4 in the second period and arguably outplaying Texas in the third even though both teams scored two goals apiece.
“We just have to tighten up,” McCambridge said. “It was the miscues in our defensive zone coverage that gave them scoring opportunities.”
Game time today is 10 p.m. NL time, on 930AM, stjohnsicecaps.com and Rogers Digital Channel 471.