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Red-hot Pasquale talk of The Rock

Goalie leading IceCaps' Calder Cup charge

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NO one would hold it against Eddie Pasquale if he didn't fast-forward a bit -- especially in those moments when the Mile One Centre in St. John's is rocking to the chants of "Ed-die! Ed-die!" -- and wonder aloud about next September and Winnipeg Jets' training camp.

The St. John's IceCaps netminder, after all, has been the talk of The Rock and the American Hockey League as he has helped guide his squad into the Eastern Conference Finals which open tonight in Virginia against the Norfolk Admirals, the affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But here's the thing: A goaltender always needs to live in the moment. And the best way a guy like Pasquale can make a good impression with Jets' brass is help take the IceCaps deeper and deeper into the Calder Cup playoff race.

"Right now the only thing on my mind is helping this team out," Pasquale said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I've got to do my job and if my mind wanders I'm not going to be able to do my job. I'm just concentrating on keeping the puck out of our net right now."

So far, so good for the 21-year-old Toronto product, drafted in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009. He started the year as one of three netminders in St. John's, along with Peter Mannino and David Aebischer, but by mid-January had emerged as the IceCaps' No. 1 stopper.

He was 23-12-1 with a 2.41 goals against average and .911 save percentage during the regular season and is 7-4 in the post-season with even juicier numbers: a 2.22 GAA and .927 save percentage.

And don't for a moment think that hasn't made him a big blip on the Jets' radar screen, especially with veteran Chris Mason -- Ondrej Pavelec's back-up this past winter -- scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

But, again, that kind of talk is in one ear and out the other for Pasquale. It's all about living in the right here and right now.

September? That's a lifetime away when a guy is chasing a championship.

"We've got a great group of guys here and we want to keep this thing going as long as we can," said Pasquale. "We had a meeting before Game 7 (against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and the older guys said, 'We've got a team that can really make some noise here and we don't want it to end yet. We're not ready to go home and get ready for next year. We want to push this thing as far as we can.'

"These opportunities are rare, so we're going to try and do whatever we can to take a hold of it and have something to remember forever."

Pasquale isn't the only IceCap who has jumped off the page in the playoffs. St. John's has been a deep, balanced squad all season and that has continued in the playoffs where 12 different players have scored in their 11 games.

And all of this has to have Jet brass beaming.

"All season long we've had balance throughout," said IceCaps' head coach Keith McCambridge. "There's not one or two guys that we lean on heavily every night, there's balance among our forwards, there's balance among our back end and the same with our goaltending with Pasquale and (David) Aebischer). Depth has always been something we've harped on. We've had it the majority of the season and continue to have it in the playoffs.

"Game 7 against Wilkes-Barre really stamped home what the coaching staff believed we had: A real, strong character group that enjoys coming to the rink, enjoys having success and wants to continue on in the playoffs."

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Trotter leading St. John's big guns

 

Eastern Conference Final begins tonight in Norfolk against the Admirals

 

WHO'S HOT FOR THE ICECAPS

 

F Brock Trotter: Has five goals and five assists in 11 playoff games to lead the IceCaps.

G Eddie Pasquale: The last line of defence has been spectacular.

F John Albert: Doing a lot of little things that don't always show up on the stats sheet.

D Derek Meech: Four goals and four assists and a tidy plus-4 after missing most of the season due to injury.

F Aaron Gagnon: Second to Trotter with five goals and four assists.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2012 C3

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