© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
St. John’s IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson stretches to gobble up a loose puck as defenceman Ben Chiarot (18) pins the Manchester Monarchs’ Scott Sabourin to the ice during the team’s American Hockey League game at Mile One Centre Monday night. The IceCaps won 2-0.
Hutchinson stops 26 shots as St. John’s blanks Manchester 2-0
It was only Game No. 40 of a 76-game regular season campaign, but it was critical the St. John’s IceCaps delivered a strong performance Monday night against the Manchester Monarchs.
Deliver they did, and carrying the baton was the newcomer, Michael Hutchinson, who turned in a 26-save shutout performance as the IceCaps blanked the Monarchs 2-0 at Mile One Centre, taking the three-game American Hockey League series 2-1.
The IceCaps won the opener last Friday night 4-1, but turned in a stinker of a performance Saturday evening, losing 6-0 in the worst beatdown suffered this season.
That result prompted IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray to call a players-only meeting immediately after the game.
So to say it was important that St. John’s rebounded with a better effort Saturday might be an understatement.
“Saturday was a real sore spot for us,” said Hutchinson, the game’s first star. “This team has a real good group of character guys and we wanted to respond.
“I thought we played really well, with a lot of energy. Once we got the lead, we were able to shut them down for the most part.”
Hutchinson, a 23-year-old native of Barrie, Ont., was signed by the Winnipeg Jets in the off-season after three years with the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
He was assigned to the Ontario Reign after training camp, and starred in the ECHL, twice winning the league’s goaltender of the week award.
He was recalled Jan. 12 and at the time, was leading the ECHL in wins and was third in goals against average.
Hutchinson made an earlier start for St. John’s just prior to Christmas, losing a 3-2 decision to the Marlies in Toronto.
He came up large for the IceCaps Monday, especially in the third period as the Monarchs came at the IceCaps in waves looking to get on the scoreboard.
He made a glorious sprawling save off Jordan Weal seven minutes in, and then foiled A.J. Gale and Brandon Kozun minutes later when those two broke in on an odd-man rush.
“There wasn’t too much extra pressure on me,” he said. “I just went out there to play the best I could, and give the team a chance to win.
“I try not to get too nervous for games and overthink things. I just came in really relaxed, and was able to make some saves. And the guys did a good job blocking a lot of shots.”
Blair Riley scored what would turn out to be the game-winning goal at 13:23 of the first period, emerging from the corner to beat Jean-Francois Berube low to the stick side.
It remained 1-0 until just over half-way through the third period when Andrew Gordon scored the insurance goal, teaming up with Jaffray and Will O’Neill for his 14th on the season as the IceCaps improved to 21-16-1-2.
Berube finished the game with 25 saves.
The game ends a lengthy eight-game homestand for the IceCaps, who hit the road for five games. The trip starts this weekend with three games in three days, beginning Friday in Providence, R.I. followed by a Saturday date in Hartford, Conn. against the Wolf Pack, followed by another game in Providence Sunday.
The IceCaps next homestand is Feb. 4-5 against the Bruins.