Updated to show Stars will be opponent in final, beginning Sunday in Texas
The St. John’s IceCaps turned in a solid-as-a-rock performance in beating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to win the American Hockey League Eastern Conference final Tuesday night at Mile One Centre.
And Michael Hutchinson was a block of granite.
Hutchinson made 34 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs as the IceCaps won 5-0 to take the best-of-series and advance to their first Calder Cup final whet they’ll face the Texas Stars. The Stars captured the Western Conference title with a 6-2 win over the Toronto Marlies in Game 7 Monday night in Cedar Park, Tex.
The best-of-seven league final will begin with two games at the Cedar Park Center Sunday and Monday. Games 3, 4 and 5 would be at Mile One on June 11, 16 and 17, the latter date, if necessary. Games 6 and 7 would be in Texas June 19 and 23. (See accompanying story for more details on the Cslder Cup schedule).
In Tuesdsy's game at Mile One, Eric O’Dell, Adam Lowry, Blair Riley, Zach Redmond and Jason Jaffray, the latter into an empty net, had the goals for the IceCaps, who got another outstanding performance by their penalty-killers.
The Penguins went zero-for-five on the power play, leaving them scoreless in 32 man-advantage chances in the series.
The IceCaps’ best work on the PK came early in the game as they successfully knocked down two high-sticking penalties, one a double-minor to Kael Mouillierat at 4:42, he other a two-minute penalty to Patrice Cormier less than five minutes later. That served as a springboard for the home side, which took the lead when the other half of special teams delivered at 17:53 of the opening frame, with Eric O’Dell scoring his ninth goal of the playoffs, on that would stand up as the eventual game-winner.
Jaffray and Redmond, in one his best games of the playoffs, each had a goal and an assist; Jerome Samson had two assists and was plus-twoin his first action since the opening game of the series; and rookie defenceman Brenden Kichton also had two helpers for St. John’s.
But from start to end, the best IceCap was Hutchinson, who gave up only eight goals in the six games against the Penguins, posting two shutouts in the process.
A couple of his best stops came early in the second just before Lowry scored an even-strength marker on a nifty set-up from rookie defenceman Josh Morrissey 3:24 into the frame. Another came when he robbed Andrew Ebbett midway through the third period just after the desperate Penguins, down 4-0 and going on a power play, pulled goaltender Peter Mannino for an extra attacker.
By taking the Eastern Conference title, the IceCaps win the Richard F. Canning Trophy … Hutchinson has a 1.61 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and 11-5 record through 16 playoff games ... St. John's outscored The Penguins 18-9 in the series ... Lowry’s goal was the first five-on-five marker for St. John’s in more than eight periods … After beginning the series zero-for-eight in the first two games of the series, the IceCaps scored power plays in each of the last four games, going 7-for-25 (28 per cent) in that stretch, including one-for-five in Game 6 ... St. John’s has the first tally of the game in 12 of 14 playoff outings this spring, winning 11 times when they've done so … With IceCaps’ rearguard Will O’Neill serving a one-game suspension for a match penalty picked up in the waning seconds of a 4-2 Game 5 loss Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge opted to go back to a lineup of 12 forwards and six defencemen, bringing Samson back into the lineup … St. John's defenceman Kris Fredheim finished the night with a plus-three rating ... St. John’s had 29 shots on goal … Still with numbers, the 50-50 payout for Game 6 was $20,720, and it was claimed ... The Molson Canadian three stars: 1. Michael Hutchinson; 2. Eric O’Dell; 3. Josh Morrissey … The choice as the Mary Brown’s hardest-working IceCap: Zach Redmond …