Tonight, game three of the Calder Cup Finals is at Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The St. John's IceCaps and the Texas Stars traded blows in games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Finals, in Austin, Texas. The Stars won game one by a 6-3 score, while the IceCaps squeaked out a closely fought 2-1 victory in game two.
Oddly, the losing team had the greater number of shots on goal, in both games.
The IceCaps seemed to adapt from their game one experience. They allowed fewer odd-man rushes in game two, with the defensemen getting more help from the IceCaps forwards. Also, there were some nice plays by the St. John's defensemen to break up rushes. So, despite allowing 50 shots, the team supported Michael Hutchinson by limiting the number of high quality scoring chances. Hutchinson's great performance in game two has already been noted.
Nevertheless, it's clear that Texas still carried most of the play in game two. The IceCaps will need to continue their improvement tonight, at Mile One Centre in St. John's (note the early start for Winnipegers, at 5 PM central time, due to the time zone difference on the Rock).
Game four is often the turning point in a 7 game series, but game three might be the most important game in this one. A loss in game three, on home ice, could be difficult for the IceCaps to overcome.
St. John's will need to match - or control - the speed of the Texas Stars. The ice conditions should be better at Mile One Centre than they were at Cedar Park, in Austin Texas. (The television broadcast commented on the heat, and it looked as though the ice might be a bit slow in game two of the series). The faster ice might play into the game plan of Texas, with their speed and transition game. St. John's will need to raise their game yet again, in order to maintain their share of puck possession.
Hutchinson could steal another game, but it's unlikely he can steal three more games for the IceCaps. They will need to make it a little easier on the netminder, who stopped 49 of 50 shots on Monday night.
- Go "Hutch" go! As Hutchinson goes, so do the IceCaps.
- The mobile St. John's defenseman had a good game two - especially Zach Redmond, in my opinion. They will need to keep improving. They are the key to the flow of the game for St. John's.
- The IceCaps need to direct more shots at Christopher Nilstorp, the Stars' goalie. He's good, but he may yield some goals if St. John's can mount some sustained pressure. A breakthrough on offence could cause a momentum shift in the series, for the IceCaps.
- The Texas Stars seemed to come to life near the end of the second period in game two. They seemed to be skating at a lower speed in the first 38 minutes. I expect a much stronger first period from the Stars tonight, with the same speed they showed in game one.
- I expect Scott Glennie to keep up his high level of play for Texas. Dustin Jeffrey and Brett Ritchie have also been very strong.
- There's a long gap - 6 days - between game three and game four. That's a long time to think about a game three loss. Both teams should be flying for the first period of game three, which might feature some of the best hockey of the series.
- Get ready for some great hockey tonight! If there's a win for the home side, George Street will be jumping!