CEDAR PARK, Texas - After allowing five goals in Game 1 of the American Hockey League final, Michael Hutchinson went back to the hotel Monday night and did his homework to prepare for Game 2 against the Texas Stars on Tuesday.
That preparation was even more crucial as the Stars fired 50 shots against the goaltender, but Hutchinson stopped 49 of them in a 2-1 victory to even up the Calder Cup final at a game apiece as it heads back to St. John's for Games 3 through 5.
"We went over all their scoring chances and all my touches, and kind of got to see myself from a different angle," said Hutchinson. "I think that really helped me coming into the game tonight, knowing what to expect and I was more prepared."
It was one of the best individual performances IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge had seen in more than two decades as a player and coach.
"Without a doubt it's up there in the top three with a lot of good goaltenders over the years," said McCambridge. "He's really in a zone right now. He's really focused on making sure we got that split on the road."
Hutchinson made his biggest stops a minute apart in the third period while clinging to a 2-1 lead.
With 13:05 remaining Kevin Henderson had a point-blank chance in the slot on a rebound, but Hutchinson sprawled to his right for what McCambridge called his best save of the night.
"That was the obviously the key moment in the game for us," said McCambridge.
A minute later Hutchinson made another spectacular stop, this time diving back to the left post with the blocker as Brendan Ranford attempted a wrap-around into an gaping net.
"I kind of just got into scramble mode," said Hutchinson. "I was fortunate I could reach far enough. For all those times you end up reaching just a little too short, I was fortunate I got my glove out there and able to get a piece of it."
Hutchinson's lone mistake came 29 seconds into the second period when Ranford had tied the game at 1-1 for Texas. But 44 seconds later the IceCaps fourth line reinstated the lead.
Earlier St. John's scored on its first scoring chance 4:05 into the game.
Even with all the shots he faced, Hutchinson didn't have to make any stops on the power play.
For the first time in 94 combined regular season and playoff games, the IceCaps didn't face an opposition penalty kill. St. John's did commit a penalty— a roughing minor against Jordan Hill— but it was cancelled out by a matching minor against Stars defenceman Jamie Oleksiak.
Nilstorp stopped 33 of 35 shots for Texas, and made several key stops in the second and third period to keep his team in the game.
Game 3 is Wednesday at the Mile One Centre in St. John's.
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