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Hutchinson Hot - Leads Griffins to 5-1 Win
Veteran net minder loses shutout with 9 seconds left...
By Jason Kasiorek
November 24th, 2023

Veteran netminder Michael Hutchinson had a hot night in the net for the Grand Rapids Griffins stopping 29 of 30 shots and just missing out on the shutout with 9.2 seconds left on the clock. He got help in notching the win with a suddenly potent Griffins offense keyed by the return of Austin Czarnik from the NHL. Joel L'Esperance scored his first two goals of the season, and Tyler Spezia (3), Jonatan Berggren (3) and Taro Hirose (5) each added singles.

First Period:
Tyler Spezia got the Griffins on the board early, taking a back-door feed from Albert Johansson and burying it into the open side of the cage. This touched off an avalanche of Teddy bears raining onto the ice for the annual Teddy Bear Toss. William Wallinder tried to go D-to-D and turned the puck over but chased it down and got it back before much could happen. Scrambly play mostly in the neutral zone but the Griffins got a stick on the puck to break up a Moose rush, and Carter Mazur with great support positioning was in the right place to snag the loose puck and send it up ice and out of trouble. The Griffins having trouble clearing their own zone for quite a while, and Hutchinson had to make some really big stops.

Nifty passing play and the Moose end up with the puck right on the doorstep for a blast the Hutchinson gloved. Mazur very noticeable when he is on the ice, all of the little things he does - getting his stick in the way, creating turnovers, rushing the puck carrier into a mistake. Josiah Didier to the box for tripping leaving the home team shorthanded. Dominik Shine with a shorthanded breakaway but he fired the puck into Delia's glove. Another good shorthanded chance by Tim Gettinger, but Spezia couldn't quite pick up the pass. Wallinder drew a penalty with his hard work behind the net to protect the puck. Simon Edvinsson great work at the point held in a couple of clearing attempts, and really making things happen with his heads up passing. GR with a 4-on-2 and Zach Aston-Reese dumped it into the corner instead of carrying it in. Shots on goal: GR 11 - Man 9.

Second period:
Jonatan Berggren in front corralled a loose puck with his skate and fired a shot just wide. GR pressure with a flurry of chances right in front, but somehow the puck stayed out. Big hit by Cross Hanas along the endboards and the whistle signals a penalty, but it was to Wallinder for tripping. Moose powerplay buzzing around the Griffins zone. Loose puck in front of Hutchinson, big scramble before he got a glove on it. After the whistle a big scrum broke out behind the GR net with Gettinger and Torgersson in the middle pushing and shoving. Didier down on the ice behind the play and looks shaken up. He eventually made his way to the bench and the Griffins went back to the powerplay. Not much to show for the two minutes as GR could not maintain zone possession and didn't generate many chances.

Thirty seconds after that penalty expired the Moose took another and the Griffins had an extra skater again. Amadeus Lombardi split the D and shot in on net but tried to dish instead of shoot and lost the puck. Joel L'Esperance scored his first of the year on a nice pay. He got behind the defense, settled the puck down between the circles and ripped a shot past Delia to make it 2-0. Two-on-one with Mazur and Gettinger, Mazur just was pushed off the puck as he wound up to bury it into the open side of the net. Grand Rapids again having trouble clearing their own end, Hutchinson standing tall as he faces several quality chances. Grand Rapids with a 3-on-1 and Shine rang a shot off the post behind Delia. Delayed call against the Griffins and play went on a long time before they could get control. Jonatan Berggren with a drive right in front that he fired wide. Shots on goal: GR 11 - Man 11.

Third period:
Austin Czarnik, recently returned from Detroit, had two good rips right on the doorstep, but Delia kicked them both out. Lombardi went end-to-end and curled around the back of the net for a wraparound attempt. Mazur driving to the net drew a penalty. Off the faceoff, Hirose in the slot had a one timer that Delia got a piece of. Edvinsson carries deep into the offensive zone, shows great patience to draw defenders to him, then passes to Hirose. Hirose hits Berggren who drifted into the slot, and he roofs a shot over Delia to make it 3-0. Hutchinson big save to snare a shot through traffic that looked like it was going in. Another shot trickled through Hutchinson but Lombardi reached in behind him and pulled the puck out of harm's way.

Czarnik was sprung on a breakaway, but Delia made the stop on his coring attempt. Manitoba's Viel knocked down Edvinsson and then hit him a couple of times in the head while he was down. Hirose scored on the ensuing powerplay to run the score to 4-0. Bid scrum in the corner with Hanas in the middle of it. L'Esperance in front pounced on a loose puck for his second of the night. Berggren steals the puck and is knocked down by Sautner, which touched off a big scrum and gave GR another powerplay. L'Esperance seeing a lot of shifts as they try to get him a hat trick. He had a great chance but Delia snared the puck as he fell to the ice. All of the focus on getting the puck to L'Esperance led to Manitoba picking off the puck and starting a 2-on-1 in on Hutchinson. Malott sniped a shot into the Griffins net with 9 seconds on the clock to break the shutout bid. Shots on goal: GR 15 - Man 10. For the Game GR 37 - Man 30.

Starting Lines:
#12 Aston-Reese - #26 Gettinger - #43 Mazur
#17 Hirose - #27 Czarnik - #48 Berggren
#32 Spezia - #93 Lombardi - #65 Shine
#71 Hanas - #92 Kasper - #11 L'Esperance

#77 Edvinsson - #23 Johansson
#22 Wallinder - #25 Rafferty
#5 Viro - #44 Didier

Starter: #35 Hutchinson
Backup: #33 Cossa

#3 McIsaac
#4 Tuomisto
#20 Soderblom
#21 Stevens
#40 Newpower


#26 Gettinger - #27 Czarnik - #438 Berggren
#17 Hirose - #77 Edvinsson

#71 Hanas - #93 Lombardi - #11 L'Esperance
#25 Rafferty - #43 Mazur

#12 Aston-Reese - #65 Shine
#77 Edvinsson - #40 Newpower

#32 Spezia - #65 Shine
#22 Wallinder - #25 Rafferty


Hutchinson obviously a strong night - I felt terrible when the Moose started down the ice on the 2 on 1 with time ticking down, I had a feeling it was going to be a goal. He has played well in every game I have seen him in this season, and certainly has earned a contract through the end of the year.

I have been very critical of L'Esperance for the last year, but this season has been a real struggle for the former AHL all-star and 30 goal scorer. It was nice to see him break out for his first two goals of the season, but 2 goals in 14 games is an 11 goal pace, which is not enough for an offensive player like L'Esperance.

Have to give a shout out to Mazur and Lombardi who were both very active and noticeable in this game. I already wrote about Mazur above, but Lombardi was using his speed and anticipation to make things happen. He still has to learn which moves worked in Jr that won't work in the Pros, but he is trying and getting better.

Official Game Sheet