Michael Hutchinson, the Bruins' third-round draft choice in 2008, posted his first shutout of 2012-13 and sixth as a pro Friday night.
After dealing with a mere 10 opposing stabs in the first 40 minutes, the Baby Bs' backup backstop rewarded his skating mates and himself with his first shutout of his third AHL season.
Although the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins doubled their shot count in the closing frame, Hutchinson repelled everything on his property. At the other end, Providence converted a pair of power plays en route to a 2-0 home triumph before 8,230 rooters Friday night.
Dating back to Jan. 6 and running through Friday’s opening draw, the P-Bruins had mustered at least one man-advantage strike in each of their previous 13 games at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Of those 17 conversions in 70 tries, Craig Cunningham and Jamie Tardif each had a hand in five, Ryan Spooner in seven.
After Providence spilled its first three chances, those three would collaborate to solve the team that had the AHL’s best penalty-killing percentage (88.3) entering Friday’s tilt.
Cunningham, fresh off a hat trick last Sunday versus Portland, converted a Tardif feed for the icebreaker and eventual clincher with 5:58 gone in the third. The team’s top playmaker Spooner garnered the secondary assist.
Less than 10 minutes later, Graham Mink tipped home another conversion with the help of fellow forward Christian Hanson and defender Colby Cohen, one of the more seasoned Bruins blueliners eligible to dress for Friday’s engagement.
They along with the penalty-killing forwards were summoned to frequent early duty with Tardif, Chris Bourque and Trent Whitfield―incidentally some of the eldest forwards on the roster―took successive penalties in the opening stanza.
Yet through all of that, only three Penguin shots reached Hutchinson before the first intermission. He later needed to kick out a mere seven in the middle frame, which featured the Bruins’ second five-minute major penalty in as many games.
Just as Exelby had put the previous opponent on a potential all-you-can-score buffet in the midst of getting himself banned for Friday, Bobby Robins was cited for boarding with 7:25 to spare in the second. But Providence neutralized the tempest and sent themselves and their adversary into the second intermission with a scoreless tie for the first time in the 2012-13 campaign.
By outlasting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Jeff Zatkoff in the staring contest, Hutchinson ensured that Cunningham’s goal stood as the second-year winger’s fourth game-winner of the season, all within the last five weeks. For himself, the goalie snapped a personal two-game winless streak, but also matched a season-high four-game point-getting streak (2-0-2).
The P-Bruins are similarly 3-0-1 in their last four outings and now hold a three-point lead for first in the Atlantic Division with precisely one quarter of their regular-season schedule left.
College, Junior Notes
Elsewhere in the tournament, Alexander Fallstrom’s Harvard team triumphed over Dartmouth, 2-1, while Ben Sexton and the Clarkson Golden Knights were blanked by Brown, 3-0. Sexton tied two teammates with a game-high four shots on goal, but had little beyond a minus-one rating to show for it.
Only two OHL teams featuring Bruins prospects were in action Friday and neither of the prospects in question saw action. Seth Griffith of the London Knights continues to recover from a hand injury while Belleville Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban had the night off in a 6-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves.