Unlike their first round, five-game series against Syracuse, the IceCaps began their seven-game feud with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at home in St. John's. After the first two games, the teams are tied at one win a piece, with no clear victor in sight.
In a bizarre coincidence, the scores were identical in both games, 3-1, and the shot totals nearly were as well - 37-20 in Game 1 and 38-23 in Game 2 - with the winner leading in shots each time.
In the first meeting, both teams played a wide-open game. The IceCaps used their superior speed and skills to beat the Pens in transition, pouring shots on WB/S goaltender Brad Theissen. Theissen played well, stopping 34 shots - including a penalty shot by Jason King - but was beaten twice on identical breakaway goals by IceCaps forward Brock Trotter, the second of which stood as the game-winner.
The Penguins picked up the win in Game 2 due to a more concentrated defensive effort, holding the IceCaps to a single goal. While the IceCaps played large stretches of the game in the opposing zone, the Pens clogged the shooting lanes and brought the St. John's offense to a standstill.
One risky technique the Penguins utilized was tipping opposing shots over their own net, instead of blocking those shots with their bodies. While this created the threat of beating their own goalie, the Penguin defenders effectively used this technique to leave themselves mobile to pick up the puck behind the net and turn the play into a breakout, instead of picking themselves off the ice after eating rubber.
The Penguins also dominated the forecheck in Game 2, using their size-advantage to create numerous turnovers in the IceCaps zone and generate scoring chances. As well, they drove to the net more consistently than the IceCaps, producing pressure and traffic in front of goalie Eddie Pasquale, who has arguably been the standout player for St. John's this postseason.
Hulking Penguins forward Eric Tangradi was particularly hard to contain, while center Cal O'Reilly continued his hot streak, adding two assists to his goal from Game 1. The Pens top scoring line features NHL-vet Jason Williams - who sits at number two in playoff scoring with 10 points in seven games - and Colin McDonald who has four goals and eight points over seven games. For the second series in a row, the IceCaps have the task of shutting down a team with a top-heavy offense.
One distinct difference between Games 1 and 2, was the crowd presence at Mile One Centre in St. John's. While both games were sell-outs, Game 2 didn't sound like one. There was a distinct lack of energy amongst the crowd and the affect on the IceCaps was evident in their lackluster performance. That said, whenever the crowd seemed to get a chant going in Game 2, the arena music would blast and drown them into silence. That's something the club needs to address with it's PA-system operator.
The next three games of the series begin tonight in Pennsylvania, and if the IceCaps want to see another game at home this season, they'll need to figure out how to crack the Penguins' defense and get some goals on the board.