The St. John’s IceCaps wrap up their road trip this weekend be revisiting Portland on Sunday. The two teams combined for 12 goals during their last meeting on Tuesday with St. John’s earning the win. Before they wrap up the trip, though, they stop in Worcester for two games: tonight and tomorrow night.
Being still two months away from the end of the season, it might not make sense why this series is important to both teams, but it is. Both teams have reason to really want to take these four points and gain important standing.
For starters, the teams are rivals as a result of being in the same division. Although they are not all that close in the standings, two games could definitely make a difference when the end of the season comes around. Against another team in your division, four points that you get and keep an opponent from getting are huge. At the end of the season, there are usually only a couple points that separate you from being clearly in the playoffs as opposed to clearly out of the playoffs.
These teams have also traditionally had better success on the road than they have had at home. This season, the Sharks have taken 7 of a possible 10 points while playing in St. John’s. The bigger surprise is that Worcester has also won both games against St. John’s while playing in Worcester this season. Prior to this season, the Sharks were winless in Worcester when facing the IceCaps.
For these two games, the Sharks will look to keep their streak of beating St. John’s at home alive during a time that they seem to desperately need it. If you look at the numbers, the Sharks do not seem to be doing all that poorly. They are just above .500. But in a period where you get a point for forcing overtime, even if you lose, being .500 doesn’t mean the same thing that it used to.
The Sharks are also coming off a weekend where they were outscored 17-2 over three games. If they could manage to put forth a good showing this weekend, it might shift their momentum in the direction that they need it to and prevent a full-on downward spiral.
This weekend is important for the IceCaps too, though. They started off their trip with a loss to Providence followed by a shootout loss to Manchester in a game where they seemed to be out skating their opponent. Being better rested, they seemed primed to continue their success against the Monarchs.
Over this 6-game road trip for St. John’s, they have also only played opponents in their own division, making the games seem to count for more. As it stands right now, the IceCaps are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the conference. There are only four points separating fourth place from ninth, so things are far from decided.
The playoff picture starts to approach a more realistic sense at this point of the season and the IceCaps want to see themselves return to the post season as they did in 2011-2012, their first season in the league. On the other side of the picture, the Sharks are looking to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Both teams are certainly approaching this mini-series and being a serious test for them in the back-half of the season.