AHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Part-time Jets move easily back to AHL

IceCaps regain core group of top players

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AUSTIN, Texas -- One exercise that occupies AHL teams late in the season is projecting which players with NHL parent teams could return for the Calder Cup playoffs.

Additions are without exception quality players and prospects, but they do not always assure success in the post-season.

The Manitoba Moose learned that a time or two during their existence in Winnipeg.

The St. John's IceCaps had as many as a half-dozen regulars helping out the Winnipeg Jets in the season's late going and their collective return in mid-April was so seamless, the IceCaps have done exactly what they've done all year in reaching the Calder Cup final.

"The difference for this team, those players that were added back to our roster had spent the majority of their time in St. John's," IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge said. "Only Eric O'Dell was gone for a long stretch but he had been here the previous two seasons. All those players have an investment in having the IceCaps have success.

"O'Dell, Zach Redmond, Patrice Cormier, Carl Klingberg, Ben Chiarot, they've been here three years in a row. They have an investment and you could feel at times during the season when (most) of them were here, there might be a chance to have something special with this group."

McCambridge, who arrived in Texas with his team on Friday to get ready for Sunday's series opener against the Stars, is far too smart to think the return of players would put the team on autopilot.

"It was never a guarantee," he said. "We just have a balanced team where one line or a D pair doesn't jump off the page. Ours is a team that gets it done by committee. And those players, when they came back, it was seamless because they knew the expectations and the system and just as importantly, they integrated themselves back with their teammates."

When regulars were with the Jets, the IceCaps had enough depth to compensate.

"It's our chemistry," the coach said. "We have it. We have a group of young men who enjoy coming to work every single day and realize the work ethic and details that have to go into the game to get to this point

"In the back half when Winnipeg had its stretch of injuries... we felt we had younger guys, Adam Lowry, Brenden Kichton, J.C. Lipon and some of our AHL-contracted guys (Kyle MacKinnon, Blair Riley, Jordan Hill, Kris Fredheim) that had grabbed more significant ice time and they had a chance to build confidence."

That period of the most busy shuttling between AHL and NHL teams is often the most stressful for coaches and AHL teams.

"There were times that I'd even admit we were surprised we were able to push through to the end with a real strong winning streak," McCambridge said.

"But we found a way to win games and that's been kind of the makeup of this team.

"In the AHL, you never know what you're dealing with from one night to the next. Sometimes you don't know from the pre-game skate to game time. As a coach, you're leery sometimes to even put your lines on the board in the morning because there's a strong possibility that a couple of those players might be out of the lineup. That's just life in the AHL. And that's a good thing when players are being called up."

***

The best-of-seven series begins Sunday with Game 1 and continues Monday with Game 2 before shifting to St. John's for three games, starting next Wednesday.

The teams have not faced each other this season but there are a couple of known quantities and an additional Winnipeg connection playing for the top farm team of the Dallas Stars.

Defenceman Derek Meech, the Winnipeg-born former member of the Jets, started the season in the KHL but returned to North America late in 2013 to join the AHL's Stars.

Also on the Stars' blue-line is former Manitoba Moose fixture Max Fortunus, whose tally as a reliable defender is now up to 633 AHL games.

Among the Stars' forwards is Winnipeg-born centre Scott Glennie, 23, who was Dallas's first-round draft pick in 2009.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 0

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