SPORTS

St. John's IceCaps coach sees progress as AHL team closes November on the road

11/30/2012 11:44 EST | Updated 01/30/2013 05:12 EST
St. John's coach Keith McCambridge is starting to see a bit of the magic that made the IceCaps a surprising success last season.

"We've made some really positive strides," he said as the American Hockey League team prepared to close November on the road Friday night with its eighth game in a span of just 15 days.

"It's been a lot of hockey in a short period of time."

The IceCaps (10-9-1) were going to Albany tied with the Manchester Monarchs (9-6-2-1) on points (21) at the top of the Atlantic Division. They were still in second spot as they have played two more games than Manchester.

And a six-game homestand that ended last Sunday saw St. John's continue to struggle with the second of the back-to-back series they must play because of their relatively isolated location.

But with a 6-0 shutout at home over Providence, followed by a 3-2 road win against the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday, McCambridge is seeing the kind of improvement he's been hoping for, particularly from some key players.

That includes centre Alexander Burmistrov, sent down to the AHL from the Winnipeg Jets because of the NHL lockout.

Burmistrov is now second on the team scoring list with 11 points, behind Derek Meech with 13.

"Alex has been really good for us. He continues to create a lot of scoring chances, as has Meech," McCambridge said.

"Spencer Machacek is another player that found his game the last little while."

Machacek is third on the IceCaps with 10 points

"Our top-end players have now really started to step to the forefront again and run our offence, give us a chance to be in games."

Also catching fire again is St. John's power play, with three goals Sunday and two on Wednesday with the man advantage.

"Our power play, which was dormant for a while, as power plays go, has now come back."

Last season, the IceCaps first in Newfoundland after the Winnipeg Jets farm team was cobbled together and relocated, saw them finish atop their division and make the conference final, where they lost to the eventual Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals.

McCambridge has been looking to see a little of that magic return and, while the team is still a couple of wins off last year's pace, he sounds a lot more upbeat about their prospects.

"We've had a chance to take five out of a possible six points in our last games.

"It's been making some real strides here, some consistency, some guys finding their games."

One downside to their packed schedule may have been an increase in injuries, however.

The long list includes centre Patrice Cormier, out with a knee injury, left-winger Hunter Tremblay, sidelined with concussion-like symptoms, and Travis Ramsay with a broken hand.

Centre John Albert is the latest casualty.

The IceCaps called up forward Joey Sides from the ECHL Thursday to help take some of the strain.

"It's a chance to bring him in, he's playing good hockey in the ECHL, and see if he can integrate himself in the group here," said McCambridge.

Sides has 18 points so far this season with the Colorado Eagles, good enough to tie for fourth on the team's scoring list behind the top three scorers in the entire ECHL.

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