WHITEHALL, PA. — A hockey practice is not only a learning experience for the players on the ice but also instructive for those who follow the team. The IceCaps Hockey Report team caught up with the IceCaps as they were put through their paces during the road trip in Pennsylvania.
The players were wide-eyed as they entered the well-worn old barn. Jacob De la Rose said that it reminded him of the rink where he played his minor hockey. But as they walked along the boards to the dressing room many commented that the ice looked good. “I can smell good ice,” said Eric Neilson.
“When we pulled in, everyone was like ‘Woah, what is this?’,” said Mike McCarron, “But the ice was good. It was a good practice. Guys were moving their feet good.”
McCarron was the first to take the ice at the arena known as “The Rink at Lehigh Valley.”
The IceCaps began practice will a typical line-rush drill but with a twist. They didn’t use pucks. The invisible puck drill was a trademark of former Canadiens forward Jimmy Roberts back in his coaching days primarily with the St. Louis Blues organization. According to IceCaps team broadcaster Brian Rogers, it was the coaching staff’s tribute to Roberts, who passed away on October 23rd of this year.
IceCaps assistant coach Donald Dufresne played for Roberts when Jimmy was the coach and general manager in the mid-90’s of the Worcester IceCats (Blues AHL affiliate.) Canadiens assistant coach J.J. Daigneault was also a member of that roster.
Passing without a puck was, for the most part, tape-to-tape. The line rushes by the forwards were creative and the phantom shots were of the booming variety. But it was the goaltending where imaginations flourished with spectacular glove saves and the occasional double-pad stack.
“The guys, I think they missed their shots,” said Zach Fucale, “That was a little bit of a fun time to start the practice. It got everyone fired up.”
The 3-on-3 drill was especially intense with some solid contact. It was a spirited, high-energy practice with players being encouraged to be very vocal to communicate with teammates. This is a talented, strong skating team with good camaraderie.
“Sorry Tick” drowned out the rest of the ice noise as a restrained shot from defenceman Brett Lernout got up a little high on Dustin Tokarski. The body language of the former Canadiens backup and his lack of crispness in a shoot-in drill hinted that Tokarski is not necessarily enthusiastic about his new assignment. (Tokarski was recalled by the Canadiens on Sunday in light of an injury to Carey Price.)
With the net empty, Lernout practised one-timers in rapid-fire succession displaying a potent shot and remarkable accuracy. After several minutes, he celebrated loudly his several dozen goals.
The head coach showed that he still has a little velocity to his shot as a blast from the stick of Sylvain Lefebvre went part way through the twine remaining caught up in the netting for all to see.
McCarron was second-to-last off the ice as the session ended just over an hour after it began.
Check out our gallery of photos from IceCaps practice.
Scratches: Josiah Didier, Mac Bennett, Ryan Johnston (hernia), Mark MacMillan, Nikita Scherbak (undisclosed), Connor Crisp, Tim Bozon (shoulder) Injured reserve:
Buoyed by their win Friday night in Allentown, the St. John’s IceCaps came out flying in Hershey on Saturday. Darren Dietz opened the scoring with a perfectly placed wrister from the point before the game was four minutes old.
Shots on goal were 10-1 for the IceCaps with just seven minutes played in the first period. Hershey’s veteran goaltender Justin Peters prevented any further damage in the first period, particularly with two big pad saves on Charles Hudon during an IceCaps 5-on-3 man advantage.
The IceCaps dominated the first period outshooting the Bears 14-5. The Giant Center fans showed their disappointment in the home team during a late first period power-play as Hershey looked completely out of sync.
St. John’s went up 2-0 just 69 seconds into the second period as he knocked down a loose puck and ripped it from the circle. Just over two and a half minutes later, Hershey captain Garrett Mitchell intercepted a Dietz clearing attempt and beat Zach Fucale glove side.
Fans in the Giant Center woke up and so did the Bears. They took over the game in the second period outshooting the IceCaps 14-7.
The momentum for the home team continued into the third with Liam O’Brien converting a 3-on-1 to tie the game at two just over four minutes into the third period. Paul Carey tapped in a cross-ice feed to give the Bears their first lead at 9:58.
At the midpoint of the third period, shots on goal were 7-0 for Hershey.
The IceCaps mounted a fierce attack looking for the tying goal in the final two minutes but were turned away by Peters. Dustin Gazley scored an empty-netter for a 4-2 final.
After a very good first period, the IceCaps went to sleep. For a 30 minute stretch in the second and third periods, they were outshot 21-7. The loss, was St. John’s second in three games on this six-game road trip.
The IceCaps get the day off on Sunday before returning to the ice for practice on Monday. St. John’s next game is on Wednesday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
▲ Zach Fucale, Darren Dietz, Daniel Carr, Mark Barberio
“Well, it did (momentum changed) in the third period. The goal they got, it killed us, killed our momentum. We had no legs in the third period. Why? I don’t know. You have to give [the Hershey Bears] credit, they played well and they played hard.”
“You try to stay positive, you try to get them going but at the same time, they have to do it themselves. They have to regroup.”
“Obviously everybody thought that there should have been a penalty on the play. But we stopped playing hard, we stopped making plays, we stopped moving our feet and that’s our DNA.”
“We felt desperate, we played desperate hockey. We spent time in their zone and we had a couple of chances. They played well, their goalie made big saves especially in the first period on our power-play. He made a huge save (on Hudon.) If we score there…”
“Even when the score was 2-0, we did have some scoring chances and we didn’t capitalize. The game could have gone either way but it didn’t.”
“We looked a little tired in the third period. We’re a team that’s in pretty good shape so [fatigue] shouldn’t be a factor.”
Post-game interview with Sylvain Lefebvre
Post-game interview with Zach Fucale
Audio from interviews conducted by Amy Johnson for IceCaps Hockey Report | Rocket Sports Media.
ALLENTOWN, PA. — The Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps are currently on a six-game road trip through Pennsylvania. The IceCaps Hockey Report | All Habs Hockey Magazine team was onsite in Allentown for the first game of the trip against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The IceCaps were on the wrong side of a 5-1 score. You can read our full game report here.
Our IceCaps Hockey Report team also took in the IceCaps practice in Whitehall on Thursday. Following practice, IceCaps forward Michael McCarron kindly spent a few minutes with our video producer, Amy Johnson.
ST. JOHN’S, NL. — The IceCaps had a big opening weekend in St. John’s against the Rochester Americans. As they took both games by scores of 5-2 and 6-2 respectively.
In Game 1 the Christian Thomas – Michael McCarron – Daniel Carr line made some noise registering two goals from Thomas on some fast transition plays. McCarron enjoyed the experience playing with the two wingers saying “[Thomas and Carr] are two veteran guys who have been around, they really want the puck, so it’s my job to get the puck to them.”
Zachary Fucale also made his first professional start allowing two goals on 33 shots. His head coach spoke highly of his debut. “I know he’s won some pretty big games in World Juniors and the Memorial Cup, he looked good out there” said Sylvain Lefebvre.
Sven Andrighetto also tallied a pair and veteran Bud Holloway rounded out the scoring with one of his own.
In Game two, the McCarron line took over once again, but this time it was the big centerman making noise as he registered his first career goal, and had a far shorter wait for goals number 2 and 3 as he completed the hat trick.
Both games were taken over by the diminutive Thomas and Andrighetto, as they showed the stuff that saw them called up with the Canadiens at times last year. Dustin Tokarski got the nod in game 2 and rebounded from a rough loss last weekend allowing just two goals on 31 shots. Thomas added his third in two nights, while Morgan Ellis and Joel Hanley found themselves on the scoreboard as well.
But the night was overshadowed by McCarron, and it was a big shadow. Standing at 6-foot-6-inches and a lean 228 pounds, he left a lasting impression on the IceCaps fans. It was clear McCarron was sent down to refine his game, and it was evident his skating will likely be a part of that refinement. But what he was working on with his skating, he more than made up with his size and hockey smarts.
First impression of McCarron is that he has a high hockey IQ. He understands his place on the ice, finding his way to the front of the net making life impossible for opposing defensemen and goaltenders. He has the tools to make a very successful career out of that role. A role which is currently undertaken by Brendan Gallagher on the first power-play unit, Habs fans should be drooling over the prospect of this mammoth working his magic in the crease for years to come.
Furthermore, and perhaps more impressive, was his defensive game. Coach Lefebvre chose to give McCarron more responsibility on the penalty kill in game 2, filling in where Jacob De La Rose stood the night before. It’s another reminder of what the AHL can provide for these top prospects. The Canadiens are so focused on putting the right players on the ice every time, whereas the AHL affords an opportunity to give many players exposure in different scenarios.
After game one we had the opportunity to speak with McCarron, and he was cleared excited about the experience so far “I got to play in front of some pretty big crowds in London and Oshawa, in the Memorial Cup [Quebec City] got to play in some big rinks and this was right up there it was pretty fun. [The fans] were electric.”
McCarron went on to say “I think i’m still trying to figure out this league, you don’t have that much time with the puck anymore, you got to make quicker plays.“ It was clear in game 2 that McCarron had figured it out, and if he can continue to bring that energy on a nightly basis we could be in for a treat late into the 2016 spring.
More reinforcements en route to St. John’s
NINE MORE PLAYERS REASSIGNED
St. John’s IceCaps MEDIA RELEASE
MONTREAL, QUEBEC (September 27, 2015) –Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced today that nine players have been reassigned to the St. John’s IceCaps.
The following players have been assigned to St. John’s:
Bud Holloway (ƀ)
Christian Thomas (ƀ)
Gabriel Dumont (ƀ)
Morgan Ellis (ƀ)
(ƀ) – requires NHL waivers
There are still 31 players at Montreal’s camp (18 forwards, 10 defensemen, 3 goaltenders); including four injured players: Max Pacioretty, Nikita Scherbak, Noah Juulsen and Michaël Bournival.
The newest IceCaps will travel to Newfoundland and Labrador tonight to continue their training camp. St. John’s will play three pre-season games against the Toronto Marlies on October 1st, 2nd and 4th.
IceCaps season tickets remain available and can also be purchased in person at the Mile One Centre box office, by phone at 709-576-7657 or online at www.mileonecentre.com.
ST. JOHN’S, NL. — The Montreal Canadiens were the healthiest team in the NHL in 2014-15 with the fewest Man Games Lost at 88 (team reported.) By contrast, the Columbus Blue Jackets topped the list with a whopping 508 Man Games Lost. Given the low number of injuries we saw typical Hamilton callups like Christian Thomas, Sven Andrighetto, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn. It was good to see Pateryn, Nathan Beaulieu and Jacob De La Rose earning their keep playing big minutes in the Habs playoff run.
We can only hope for similar luck in 2015-16, but in case it doesn’t happen Bergevin definitely feels comfortable with the pieces in the system. This year the organization has an exciting crop of young guys waiting for their chance to make a jump, whether that be from junior to the pros, or the AHL to the NHL.
McCarron was drafted 25th overall by the Habs in 2013. Bergevin had visions of the 6-foot-6-inch, 230 pound ‘man-child’ meeting Milan Lucic at centre ice while making the Habs a much tougher team to play against. Times change, the NHL continues to get faster, and the Bruins have lost some of their edge with Dougie Hamilton and Lucic heading west in separate draft day deals.
McCarron still remains an interesting prospect because of his development. This time last year Habs fans heard whispers of “bust,” a word rarely used before a player even leaves junior. In his first year with the London Knights, McCarron struggled to find the back of the net. This year he found his touch playing with speedy playmakers like Max Domi and Mitch Marner. Unfortunately, due to politics by USA Hockey (they aren’t fond of American players who choose the CHL as a development path), for the second straight year McCarron was snubbed from the US Junior Camp.
Meanwhile a trade was in the works to move McCarron to the Oshawa Generals. McCarron didn’t see the same production in Oshawa, but remained close to a point per game player. More impressively, McCarron was counted on to play major minutes at the center position for the eventual Memorial Cup winners while impressing scouts with his ability to shut down top guys on opposing teams on a big stage. Once again Bergevin drools over the prospect of having a big body up the middle, something we’ve lacked in Hab land since, well, since McCarron was born.
Ceiling – Two-way center, potential 20-goal scorer. Think Brian Boyle 2.0
Floor – John Scott, look out Phil Kessel.
Without a doubt the flashiest player on this list with the apparent highest ceiling, Nikita Scherbak was drafted 26th overall by the Canadiens in 2014. After coming into the Canadiens camp at 6-foot-1-inch, 175 pounds last fall, Scherbak made noise this year growing an inch and adding another 25 pounds to his now 6-foot-2-inch frame. His wide skating stance and creativity with the puck had comparisons to another young Hab of Russian descent, No. 27.
In junior, Scherbak came to Canada to prove his commitment to playing in the NHL, as a part of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades in 2013-14; he led all rookies in scoring with 78 points in 65 games, and followed it up with a modest 82 points in 65 games with Everett this past season. Nikita figures to compete in camp for a top-6 role on the big club, with potential to show his worth following news of Max Pacioretty missing most of the preseason (knee injury). With that said, following the recent Alexander Semin signing it is more likely he will spend some time with the St. John’s IceCaps this upcoming fall and before cracking the Habs lineup sometime in 2015-16.
Ceiling – Perennial 60+ point scoring winger.
Floor – Somewhere in Russia.
Drafted by the Canadiens 122nd overall in 2012, Hudon has spent his hockey career under the radar. In junior, he made Team Canada in 2012, just to suffer a back injury in the pre-tournament games and missed the tournament. The following year he was selected to play for Canada again, registering a couple points, but never really standing out. His junior career was highlighted scoring 273 points in 235 games, but his 5-foot-10-inch, 180 pound frame never considered to carry over to the NHL.
Last year with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Hudon was off to an incredible pace, leading the AHL in scoring with 27 points through 25 games as a 20-year old. However everything slowed down with just 30 points in his final 50 games. It is important to note that Hudon was a winger throughout junior, and was asked to play center position by the Hamilton coaching staff. It is yet to be seen if Hudon will ever become a bonafide NHL’er, but it appears that he will at least be given a chance, and is a current favourite to take over the vacant top-6 spot for the Habs; that is so long as the next prospect doesn’t have anything to say about it.
Ceiling – 40-50 point guy, 2nd-3rd line. Derek Roy.
Floor – Gabriel Dumont, career AHLer.
An unlikely hero in last year’s regular season, he was a bright spot on an inconsistent Hamilton Bulldogs team. Carr led all AHL rookies in scoring with 24 goals, and found chemistry with Hudon. He spent four years at Union College, New York in NCAA Divison I. Scoring 78 goals in 160 college games, he helped bring Union College its first National Championship in school history.
Carr is a bit of a wildcard for the Habs, however they lost nothing by signing him as an undrafted free agent, and have been pleased by his development under Sylvain Lefebvre. Much like his line-mate from last season, he will by vying for that top-6 position in camp this September. The Habs’ brass hopes he proves to be a diamond in the rough for a team who may be depending on Alex Semin to address the lack of scoring. Bergevin and company have been adamant about the potential of a young player rising to the occasion and Carr figures to be just the type of guy they are looking for.
Ceiling – Brad Boyes, 30 goal threat.
Floor – Jason Jaffray, career AHL’er.
The only thing more jammed up than Carey’s starter role is his trophy case back in Kelowna, BC. Because of this, Fucale is likely the furthest away from a Habs debut on this list, barring an injury to Mr. Price (let’s not go there.) Fucale will be fighting for a roster spot on the IceCaps with fan favourite Eddie Pasquale, who led the IceCaps (as part of the Jets organization) to a conference final and Calder Cup Final in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Along with the return of incumbent starter Mike Condon, Fucale now finds himself in a predicament. After shattering records for goaltending in the QMJHL, Fucale will get his first taste of the Pro’s this fall.
Fucale was the beneficiary of playing behind one of the greatest junior lineups in the last decade with players such as Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Martin Frk, and more recently Nikolaj Ehlers and Timo Meier. He found himself traded to the 2015 Memorial Cup Host Quebec Remparts following his Gold for team Canada in Toronto this past January (his second kick at the cat as starter for Team Canada). The QMJHL has always given goalies the benefit of the doubt as a high scoring league with no defence, so Fucale’s stats were never considered to be an issue. His calm and sometimes cocky demeanor had scouts comparing him to No. 31 for Le Bleu Blanc et Rouge. The pedigree is there for Fucale, but it’s yet to be seen if he can follow through with the IceCaps this year or perhaps the organization deems it more valuable for him to gather more starting minutes with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL. Best case scenario for the Habs is he becomes the Schneider to Carey’s Luongo in 4-5 years.