There'll be a slight sense of deja vu as the St. John's IceCaps open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Saturday night at Mile One Centre.
It was two years ago — the inaugural year for the IceCaps — that the same two teams met in the conference semifinals, with St. John's emerging victorious in seven games. The IceCaps would eventually lose in the conference finals to the Norfolk Admirals, who would go on to win the Calder Cup.
Some familiar faces are also returning to St. John's this weekend, but this time as foes in the series against the Penguins. Forward Spencer Machacek and goaltender Peter Mannino were on the IceCaps' opening night roster in October 2011 for the team's first game in franchise history.
Machacek would play almost two full seasons for St. John's, leading the team in scoring in 2011-12. Mannino has the distinction of recording the IceCaps' first shutout.
St. John's enters the conference finals well rested after eliminating the Admirals in six games more than a week ago. Wilkes-Barre, meanwhile, needed a seventh game to get by the Providence Bruins on Wednesday night.
Games 1 and 2 go Saturday and Sunday at Mile One before the series shifts to Pennsylvania for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary). The series would return to St. John's for Games 6 and 7 if needed.
A tailgate party is planned in front of Mile One Centre on Saturday from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and will include face-painting, live music, a spirit table for making signs, the Molson goalies, Buddy the Puffin and a photo booth where people can dress as super fans.
The IceCaps are also asking all fans to dress in white for the game which starts at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Marlies lead the Texas Stars 1-0 in the Western Conference finals, with Game 2 set for Monday night.