Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hutchinson's heartwarming tale of hard work and reward

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There's no knowing whether Michael Hutchinson gets a chance on this first recall to the Winnipeg Jets, but it's already a good story of hard work and rewards.

The 24-year-old native of Barrie, Ont., took a real risk last summer when he signed with the Jets organization, primarily to add to the depth chart with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps in mind.

In fact, IceCaps GM and Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger laid his cards on the table for Hutchinson right off the bat -- taking the Jets' deal might involve starting out in the ECHL.

It likely wasn't the greatest of news for a goalie who put up credible numbers in the AHL with Providence last season (13-13-3, 2.30, .914)

"I was talking to my agent and he knew Zinger (Heisinger) quite well through other deals and he just thought Winnipeg would be a good fit," Hutchinson said Sunday after he was called up to be Al Montoya's backup for Sunday's game. "It was one of those things where I knew it was a little crowded and there was a chance I was going to start off in the ECHL, but my agent just told me if I played well anywhere then you're going to get a shot and work your way up.

"It's always great when you have to work a little harder for it. It just makes you a little bit more hungry."

Hutchinson was indeed sent to the ECHL to start the season for the Ontario Reign, because the crease was full in St. John's.

There, he was nothing short of excellent, going 22-4-2 before his opening with the IceCaps came just before Christmas.

Since then, he's helped the Jets' farm team climb steadily in the standings, with a mark of 15-5-1 and a goals-against average of 2.33.

"Things went really well down there (in Ontario, Calif.), great group of guys and great coach (Jason Christie, the former Moose) and a great organization," he said.

Was he getting impatient, playing so well and not getting called up earlier?

"A little bit at times," he said. "You're wondering what more you can do. But at the same time, you're winning games. That's all that matters. It's easy to forget about all the other stuff that's out of your control when you're winning games."

WINNING WAYS: In St. John's, winning has certainly become infectious.

The Jets' top affiliate has won nine of its last 10, moving to 38-20-4 and well on the way to the playoffs.

"Our leaders are leading, our goalie's making saves and scorers are scoring and the defence are playing great and nobody cares how many minutes they play," said centre Patrice Cormier, called up Sunday to fill in for injured Jim Slater. "We have four great lines."

Cormier, the gritty 23-year-old centre, has 21 points in 54 AHL games so far this season and recorded an assist Sunday, his first for the Jets in four games in 2013-14.

He said the IceCaps have what many teams seek -- chemistry.

"I've said it this year many times -- it's probably the best group of guys I've played with for a full year," he said. "Just the attitude we have in that room and it starts with Jaffs (Jason Jaffray) and (Andrew) Gordon and (Blair) Riley, the older guys. Game in and game out, you watch those guys show up and you know you... know what you have to do.

The ice-time comment is interesting, since it's such an issue on many teams.

"A guy like (Eric) O'Dell (currently up with the Jets), you want him on the ice," Cormier said. "I'm like, 'When he's on the ice, we're in good hands.' "

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2014 C2

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