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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

IceCaps hope risk reaps reward

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The first round of the Calder Cup playoffs for the St. John's IceCaps is part gamble, part delivery.

The gamble is pretty much required. As the higher seed, the IceCaps had to choose between having two home games and then three potential road games in a best-of-five opening round playoff series, or agree to two road games before three possible home games.

There is risk either way; not much of a reward for finishing higher than the Albany Devils in the Eastern Conference standings.

After a split in games in the New York state capital on the weekend, the IceCaps' choice could still work out favourably.

"We chose to go the 2-3 format, not a perfect scenario by any means," IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge said Monday, back home after more than a week away on the road to finish the regular season (with 99 points) and to start the playoffs.

"We did that the first year against Syracuse and the main thought process is you want to get one game and we were able to do that in the first game (a 2-1 win).

"It was a big weight off our shoulders but it didn't take any importance off that second game (a 4-2 loss).

"Now the ball's in our court to get it done on our home ice."

At Mile One Centre, St. John's was 23-10-5 this season, but just showing up won't be a good idea.

For starters, the IceCaps will not want to repeat Saturday's commissions of enough infractions to give the Devils nine power-play chances. They cashed three.

But McCambridge said he's not even likely to address it with his team.

"No. I really felt, regardless of the nine penalty calls against, I didn't think we pushed outside the rules," the coach said. "I know it looks different but we were physical and that's been our makeup all season long.

"We were not out of control. We were not undisciplined. But there are some parts of the game we can't control, calls or not calls. I've never been a coach to concentrate on officiating, but telling my team to be disciplined won't be something we'll have to address. We've been a disciplined team all year."

McCambridge said rookie centre Adam Lowry, who had 17 goals during the regular season, is doubtful for Game 3 on Wednesday night after missing the first two games of the series.

Lowry is fighting an illness and treatment so far has been unsuccessful.

That remains an unknown for the team, which has been all about balance and known qualities all season.

One of those has been goalie Michael Hutchinson, who finished the NHL season with the Winnipeg Jets, going 2-1-0 in the team's final three games.

"He's been good," McCambridge said. "He had the two games at the end of the season, one in Worcester and the game in Portland. He's given us the saves we've needed. He was exactly for us what he's been all season long."

More of what McCambridge has been getting from his young defencemen will also be welcome.

He had Friday's game-winner in the dying moments of regulation from Ben Chiarot, and a two-goal performance from Brenden Kichton and heady play from 19-year-old 2013 first-round draft pick Josh Morrissey in a losing cause Saturday.

"In Game 1, Josh was probably our best defenceman," the coach said. "In Game 2, he made a wrong decision with regards to a pass and it ended up in our net. But I thought he rebounded well from that. He's earned the opportunity to be in our top six for the playoffs by the way he played down the stretch. Keep in mind he's a very young man. I like what he's adding to our lineup right now.

"Brenden, In both games, he was really strong on the offensive side. They have some small, fast forwards, Albany, guys that can really fly around the ice. That hasn't been an issue for him, having to spend long periods in coverage in our own end. Without cheating too much, he's been solid in both games."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 D2

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