It wasn’t that long ago that Eddie Pasquale was the darling of St. John’s IceCaps’ fandom, the chorus of ‘Eddie! Eddie!’ raining down from the Mile One Centre seats in the spring of 2012.
The IceCaps made it through two rounds of the playoffs that first season in St. John’s, thanks in large part to Pasquale, the AHL’s all-rookie goalie.
© — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
St. John's IceCaps' goalie Michael Hutchinson saves a shot from Binghamton Senators forward Darren Kramer at Mile One Centre in St. John's.
Fast forward two years and we see Pasquale is on the outside looking in at the IceCaps right now, his season cut short because of hip surgery. Or, as the IceCaps are quick to point out, his season cut short by Pasquale AND his agent.
In other words, it was Eddie’s decision to pull the plug on the year, not ours.
Funny how quickly things can change. Pasquale barely had his skates off when Michael Hutchinson reported for duty from the ECHL, and promptly helped the IceCaps win nine of 10 games.
Proving that was no fluke, Hutchinson raised a few eyebrows in Winnipeg’s front office this week with a pair of stellar NHL outings, including his first career big league win Thursday night with a 32-save, first-star performance in a 2-1 decision over the Boston Bruins. That came on the heels of his first NHL start last Monday, 16 saves in a 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
While Hutchinson has been wowing them in Winnipeg, forcing the Jets to rethink arranging their goaltending depth chart, Tyler Beskorowany was resuming his career with gusto in St. John’s, another relatively high draft pick from 2008 — Hutchinson was a third-round selection by Boston, Beskorowany tabbed in the second round by Dallas that year — making good on a second chance.
Beskorowany had been playing in the ECHL, too, in San Francisco until the Bulls went under mid-season. Beskorowany signed a professional tryout with the IceCaps and since Hutchinson joined the Jets, he’s gone 6-2-2 with a nifty 2.22 goals against average and .932 save percentage in St. John’s.
Not to be outdone, 18-year-old Eric Comrie made a memorable pro debut last week, coming in for a rattled Beskorowany to stop 35 of 40 Springfield Falcons shots in a wild 8-7 IceCaps’ loss.
Comrie was unflappable, and very nearly provided the impetus to a St. John’s come-from-behind victory.
With Comrie likely heading back to the junior Tri-City Americans next year, another goaltending prospect is poised to turn pro in St. John’s after signing an entry level contract with the Jets last week.
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg’s fifth round pick (130th overall) in 2012, led the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to the Hockey East conference title this season, was the tournament MVP, a first-team conference all-star and is one of five finalists for the inaugural Mike Richter Award, given to the best goaltender in Division I hockey.
So where does this leave Pasquale?
Wasn’t it just a few months ago we were chatting up Pasquale being Ondrej Pavelec’s backup next season in Winnipeg, after the Jets bid bon voyage to Al Montoya when he becomes an unrestricted free agent?
Montoya won’t be the only goalie who will be a free agent. Beskorowany will also be a UFA, and Pasquale and Hutchinson are both restricted.
So, there are a few questions: do the Jets sign Pasquale and Hutchinson, and let the two battle it out for the backup job in the NHL? That’s assuming Winnipeg has no interest in bringing back Montoya, or signing/trading for a new No. 1 goalie?
Or does Winnipeg give the backup job to Hutchinson, making it his to lose? And pencil Pasquale for St. John’s again, sharing the load with Hellebuyck?
Or do they decide Beskorowany’s now their man in the American league?
Does Eddie Pasquale even want to remain in the Winnipeg Jets’ system?
These answers won’t come until the off-season.
However, if we are to peer through the crystal ball, don’t be shocked if Eddie Pasquale is not done with the Jets/IceCaps.
Michael Hutchinson, Zach Redmond, Carl Klingberg and Eric O’Dell were expected to dress for Winnipeg’s last game Friday night because of injuries to the Jets, with Ben Chiarot the only extra body. The five get in town this evening, but won’t play the opener of a two-game series against the Hartford Wolf Pack, which begins 7:30 at Mile One. They probably will play Sunday ... Hands up those who think the shootout is getting real old ... Kudos to Sport Newfoundland and Labrador for taking the provincial awards banquet and the provincial Sports Hall of Fame to another level, making it a big event at the Sheraton Hotel. Getting Scott Russell of CBC Sports to co-host along with local CBC guy Jonathan Crowe, who I mentored on the ice, is a nice touch ... Good to see Memorial University puts its money where its mouth is by allocating an additional $275,000 for varsity athletics. If nothing else, the move is a statement that says the university actually does care about varsity sports. Because until now, that was not always evident ... If — it’s a big if — Alex Ovechkin was made available by the Washington Capitals, what would you give up for him? A top three player, prospects and a couple of top picks? Fifty goals is impressive, but -36 is scary. Not a lot can be read into a plus-minus number when it’s marginal, but when it’s that low, there’s something going on ...
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort