But don't pin this loss on Hutchinson, warns coach; IceCaps need to tighten up against tough Texas squad
By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor-Cedar Park, Texas
There are two ways to consider Sunday night’s St. John’s IceCaps’ loss to the Texas Stars: if you’re a glass-is-half-empty kind of fan, you will point the finger at goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who allowed three goals on four second-period shots. If it’s half-full, it will be pointed out the IceCaps came up with a sub-par effort, but still only lost by a couple of goals (we won’t count the empty-netter) to the league’s first-place club.
American Hockey League MVP and scoring champ Travis Morin and native Winnipegger Scott Glennie both scored twice as the Stars struck first in the Calder Cup final, beating the IceCaps 6-3 before 5,625 at the 6,800-seat Cedar Park Centre Sunday.
Chris Mueller and Mike Hedden, into an empty net, also scored for the Stars, who went 48-18-3-7 this season.
Will O’Neill, Kael Mouillierat and Jordan Hill, with his first goal of the season and first as an IceCap, replied.
The story of Sunday’s game was the second period, a middle frame which saw St. John’s outshoot Texas 13-4. Killer is, the Stars scored on three of those shots as Hutchinson, otherwise brilliant in these playoffs, looked very ordinary.
Not that Keith McCambridge was ready to pin this loss on his goalie.
“Goaltending wasn’t an issue for me,” said the IceCaps’ coach. “It was our execution during the game. I thought we played the game too wide open against a very dangerous team, and gave up too many Grade A scoring chances.
“I have no issue with how Michael Hutchinson played.”
With the exception of the first-round series with the Albany Devils, the IceCaps have lost the first game in each playoff series, against the Norfolk Admirals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. And each time they’ve rebounded with a win, making Monday night’s Game 2 pivotal before the final returns to St. John’s for Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5.
But if the IceCaps are to send this final deep to a sixth, or even seventh game, they’ll need to turn in a better effort than the one on display Sunday night.
“We gave up too many odd man rushes,” said O’Neill, who otherwise had a bit of a rough game, finishing minus-three. “We kind of fed to their attack.”
Morin netted the only goal of the first period, a power play tally after the IceCaps were caught with too many men on the ice, and just after St. John’s was blanked on their own power play just 47 seconds into the game.
O’Neill drew the IceCaps even early into the second, but Texas, whose 274 goals scored this season were second-most in the AHL, scored three unanswered tallies, including Morin’s shorthanded effort.
It was the first shorthanded goal allowed by St. John’s in 17 playoff games this spring. The IceCaps allowed 16 shorties this season, second-most in the league.
Mouillierat gave the IceCaps some hope by making it a two-goal game 2:36 into the third period, but then Glennie scored his second and it was effectively over.
“That second period wasn’t good enough from us,” said Stars coach Willie Desjardins, clearly choosing to dwell on the fact Texas managed only four shots, rather than focusing on the fact his club scored three times.
“If we play that way, we’re going to have trouble … it’s going to be a long series.”
The second also irked McCambridge, too, who cut Hutchinson slack citing a lack of support in front of the goalie.
“The part for me is how we gave up those quality chances,” he said. “They’re an opportunistic team and if you give them opportunities like that, they’re going to capitalize.
“We’re usually a team that has a lot more structure to our game and we got out of that structure. There were too many turnovers and miscues in our defensive zone coverage.”
St. John’s didn’t manage a shot on goal until half-way through the first period, but finished off strong, outshooting their hosts 29-23 overall.
Maybe you can chalk that up to championship round jitters.
“Whatever it was, we just kind of watched to see what happens, see what this team is all about, and you can’t do that,” said forward Eric O’Dell. “We were moving our legs in the second and third, finishing our checks and getting more scoring chances.
“We need to do that right from the start Monday.”
Cristopher Nilstorp was as good as he needed to be for the Stars, coming up with a couple of big saves late in the game to preserve the win.