© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
St. John’s IceCaps goalie Michael Hutchinson keeps an eye on the play as teammate Andrew Gordon sets up in front during a team skate Thursday morning at Mile One Centre. Hutchinson was recalled from the ECHL’s Ontario (Calif.) Reign earlier this week and could get a start in one of three upcoming games against the visiting Manchester Monarchs.
Once an AHL regular, Michael Hutchinson didn’t let ECHL assignment alter his resolve
After spending the vast majority of the past three years stopping pucks in the American Hockey League, getting optioned to the ECHL was a humbling experience for Michael Hutchinson.
But rather than brood and exhibit a woe-is-me attitude, Hutchinson set out to prove he belonged in the AAA AHL, that he deserved to play a step up from the AA ECHL.
Well, now Hutchinson gets his chance.
The 23-year-old product of Barrie, Ont., was recalled by the St. John’s IceCaps this week, and rookie Jussi Olkinuora was sent the other way, to the ECHL’s Ontario, Calif. Reign.
Hutchinson, drafted by the Boston Bruins in the third round (77th overall) of the 2008 draft, played the past three seasons with the Providence Bruins.
He was signed as a free agent by the Winnipeg Jets last summer.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” he said of the demotion to Ontario, just outside L.A., after training camp. “At the same time, to move forward sometimes means you have to take a step backwards. It was one of those things that makes me grateful for this opportunity, and I really want to make the most of it.
“Being in the American league for three years, sometimes you take things for granted. When you get sent down, and called back up, you have a greater appreciation.”
At the time of his recall to St. John’s, Hutchinson was twice a winner of the ECHL’s goaltender of the week award, and was leading the league with 22 wins. His 2.08 goals against average was third-best in the ECHL.
But despite those lofty numbers, Hutchinson had only one sniff at a recall, and that came just prior to the Christmas break when he allowed three goals on 20 shots in a 3-2 IceCaps loss to the Marlies in Toronto.
Yet, he never lost hope of getting another crack with the IceCaps. Keep putting up the numbers, Hutchinson kept telling himself, and his time will come.
“A recall is completely out of my control,” he said. “The only thing I could control was the way I played down there.”
Hutchinson certainly doesn’t arrive in St. John’s as the new guy in town. He was around the team in training camp, of course, and he and starting goalie Eddie Pasquale go back a long way.
Like Hutchinson, Pasquale is from southern Ontario (the Greater Toronto Area) and the two have played against each other a long time, from minor hockey to junior hockey.
For a time, they shared the same goalie coach, Piero Greco.
With the IceCaps set to play three games over the next four nights – the league-leading Manchester Monarchs are in town for games tonight, Saturday and Monday at Mile One Centre – there’s a chance Hutchinson might get a start against the high-flying Monarchs.
The IceCaps will be facing Manchester without the services of Carl Klingberg, who was recalled to Winnipeg Friday as Evander Kane was placed on injured reserve.
Klingberg, who joins Eric O’Dell on the Jets, has 11 goals and 18 points in 33 games. Seven of those goals have come since the first of December.
Meantime, the IceCaps have recalled defenceman Cody Sol from Ontario and forward Jamie MacQueen, who has 17 points in 18 games with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies.
Despite the difference in where both teams sit in the standings — the Monarchs lead the East and the league, while the IceCaps sit just below the playoff line, ninth in the conference — it’s St. John’s which has the edge this season against Manchester, winning three of five games.
Tonight’s game starts 7:30 p.m. (930 AM, Rogers TV, stjohnsicecaps.com).