© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
The St. John’s IceCaps’ Eric O’Dell (14) sends the puck back to the point under pressure from the Worcester Sharks’ Eriah Hayes (18) and Freddie Hamilton (12) as the IceCaps’ Andrew Gordon (10) looks on in front of the Sharks netminder Troy Grosenick during the teams’ American Hockey League game Sunday afternoon at Mile One Centre. The Sharks won 4-2.
With Pasquale out with season-ending surgery, Hutchinson taking over as IceCaps’ No. 1
When Michael Hutchinson learned Eddie Pasquale was done for the remainder of the St. John’s IceCaps’ season, Hutchinson felt his goaltending colleague’s pain.
Hutchinson, the new No. 1 puckstop in town, had the same surgery Pasquale is facing at the tail end of the 2011-12 hockey season. But unlike Pasquale, who is having an operation on one hip, Hutchinson had the job done on both his hips.
“I know what he’s going through, and how hard it is to play through it,” Hutchinson said Sunday, after the IceCaps dropped a 4-2 decision to the Worcester Sharks and settle for a split of their weekend American Hockey League series.
“I definitely feel for him, but I’m excited for this opportunity to play a lot of games and make a playoff push.”
Pasquale will undergo surgery to repair what Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed was a hip joint issue within the next two weeks in his native Toronto.
The 23-year-old Pasquale was 17-13-1 on the season, with a 2.43 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
The technical term is Femoroacetabular Impingement, although Hutchinson merely referred to it as hip impingement surgery.
“It took me about four months to recover,” Hutchinson said. “I had both hips done six days apart, but you know something, I was on the bike the very next day.
“They make you get back into it right away which makes you feel like you’re doing something. Honestly, I felt better than I did even in junior after the surgery. It’s amazing what they can do.”
The timing is not exactly impeccable for Pasquale. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and was hoping to push for the backup job in Winnipeg next season.
But then, there are two ways to look at it: 1. he’s getting the job done now, ensuring he will be healthy when training camp opens next fall or 2. chances are the Jets will want him to play, and play a lot, after missing half the 2013-14 season, meaning he’ll start another year in the minors.
“The thing with injuries is there is never a good time,” Cheveldayoff said. “Anytime a major surgery puts you out for an extended period of time, you can look for silver linings all you want but at the end of the day, there are none.”
The Jets’ boss said the decision to have surgery now was all Pasquale’s.
“Whenever it comes to an injury, it comes down to the decision of the player,” he said. “It’s a not a situation where the team can weigh in and say this is what you should and shouldn’t do.
“The player knows his body the best, and obviously in consultation with the doctors, they’re the ones who ultimately make that call. It falls into the players hands.”
Being thrust into the starting role for the IceCaps is another twist in Hutchinson’s relatively young career.
The 23-year-old from Barrie, Ont., played the past two years for the AHL’s Providence Bruins, and was signed by the Jets last summer.
He was sent to the ECHL’s Ontario Reign after training camp as the Jets elected to keep rookie Jussi Olkinuora in St. John’s.
That all changed when Hutchinson was called up in mid-January, and Olkinuora was optioned to Ontario.
Since then, Hutchinson has delivered, to the tune of a 7-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
“It was a little bit frustrating right off the bat any time you’re sent down, whether it’s the NHL to the AHL, or AHL to the ECHL,” he said. “There’s disappointment, but after that you realize you have to make the most of it, and show you can dominate in that league. And I was happy I was able to do that.
“Now I’m happy to be up here.”
Hutchinson wasn’t overly happy Sunday after the Sharks skated into Mile One Centre and took the second game of a weekend series following a 5-3 loss Saturday.
The setback leaves St. John’s 28-18-1-2 at the all-star break, and fifth place in the very tight Eastern Conference standings.
Travis Oleksuk, Rob Davison, Eriah Hayes and Dan DaSilva scored for the Sharks Sunday. Blair Riley and Kael Mouillierat had the IceCaps’ goals.
The Sharks led 3-0 early in the third period, but goals by Riley and Mouillierat brought the Mile One Centre crowd to life.
The IceCaps pulled Hutchinson in favour of an extra attacker with 90 seconds left in regulation, but could not get the equalizer.
Rather, DaSilva scored into an empty net to ice it for Worcester.
The IceCaps are off for four days during the AHL’s Assante Wealth Management All-Star Classic at Mile One Wednesday night.
The team is back in action this Friday night in Manchester, N.H., the first game of a 10-day, six-game road trip.
NOTES: In addition to Kevin Cheveldayoff, AHL president Dave Andrews was also at Mile One Centre last night, along with popular former St. John’s Maple Leafs’ captain Nathan Dempsey and former St. John’s Maple Leafs’ general manager Bill Watters. All are in town for the all-star festivities … Eric O’Dell and Zach Redmond were in the IceCaps” lineup Sunday, and both picked up an assist. O’Dell has two goals and an assist in 14 games with the Winnipeg Jets, while Redmond has only appeared in three NHL games this season. He has been scratched the past 14 games … Adam Lowry saw his five-game goalscoring streak snapped … The emergence of O’Dell in the lineup meant Kyle MacKinnon was scratched. It’s the first time he’s been scratched from a game since Oct. 12 … The Molson-Coors three stars were 1. Rob Davison 2. Kael Mouillierat 3. Rylan Schwartz … Brian Rogers’s choice as the Mary Brown’s hardest working IceCap was John Albert ...