Michael Hutchinson has been the difference-maker for the St. John's IceCaps throughout the American Hockey League Eastern Conference final. Tuesday's Game 6 was no different.
Hutchinson made 34 saves as St. John's advanced to the Calder Cup final with a 5-0 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
"Hutchinson is playing really well right now and he played a strong game tonight," IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge said. "He has done nothing but show he is a goaltender who is knocking on the door of the National Hockey League since we got him."
The modest netminder credited his team with the shutout performance, saying the players in front of him played a great defensive game.
"Fortunately the guys blocked a lot of shots, cleared rebounds and tied up sticks," Hutchinson said. "They really let me see the puck, and when I was able to see the puck I held onto it. It was a great team effort."
Hutchinson added that winning the elimination game feels "unbelievable."
"This is what you go for all season, to play for a championship," he said. "To get here is an unbelievable feeling, and to win on home ice makes it that much more special."
St. John's will next play the Western Conference champion Texas Stars, who overcame a two-goal deficit in a 6-2 victory Tuesday in Game 7 of their series.
McCambridge said the IceCaps were hoping the team would eliminate the Penguins on the road, but he was happy with the Game 6 win.
"Everybody was disappointed that we were unable to close out the series in five (games) but you have to be realistic," he said. "You're in the conference finals and it's hard to close out (in five games), it's rare. We said that if we were able to take two out of three in the opposition's building against a very good team, we'd be happy with it."
Eric O'Dell, Blair Riley, Adam Lowry, Jason Jaffray and Zach Redmond scored for St. John's.
The IceCaps opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 17:53 of the first period. O'Dell tipped a shot from Brenden Kichton in over the blocker of Penguins goalie Peter Mannino.
Lowry doubled the IceCaps lead 3:24 into the second period, tapping in a Josh Morrissey feed that found the forward in front of the net.
Riley tipped a point shot five-hole to extend the IceCaps lead to three at the 2:23 mark of the third period.
Redmond scored a fourth for St. John's with a wrist shot from the point while Jaffray screened Mannino at 5:21.
Jaffray added an empty-net goal with 47.5 seconds left.
Mannino made 25 saves for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.