Just when things in between the pipes finally looked like they were starting to settle in for the Rockford IceHogs in 2011-12, goalie Alexander Salak went to push off on his left foot in the opening moments of the second period on Dec. 2 against the Lake Erie Monsters.
Then an instant later, Salak was laying on the ice surface, wreathing in pain. After a tumultuous start to the 2011-12 season, Salak seemed to be finding his groove. Leading up to his injury, Salak had compiled a .916 save percentage with a 2.22 goals against average over a five appearance stretch.
That same December night, Carter Hutton was in goal for the IceHogs’ ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye, making 38 saves in a 4-2 loss to Greenville. Following the game, Hutton was summoned to Rockford and never returned to the ECHL.
With the exception of Salak’s five-game run (two games were brief appearances), Rockford’s goaltending was inconsistent at best. Hutton would start on Dec.3 against Abbotsford and again the next afternoon in Peoria, beginning a stretch where the backstop would appear in 42 of Rockford’s final 56 games after just one appearance in the team’s first 20.
Despite getting saddled with the loss both nights, the team found new confidence with Hutton in goal and slowly started to turn things around, leading to a push for the playoffs in the second half of the regular season.
Hutton, however, wasn’t solidified into the role as the #1 goaltender until Jan. 13 with a shaky outing on Jan. 8 serving as another proverbial turning point in his second professional campaign. Hutton earned the win on that Sunday evening in Texas against the Stars, but it was a 6-5 overtime victory where he made just 20 stops.
The Thunder Bay, Ontario native was back on the bench in Rockford’s next outing on Jan. 11, but the net was virtually his from there on out. Beginning Jan.13 in Oklahoma City, Hutton appeared in 32 of Rockford’s next 37 games, compiling a record of 19-9-0-3 with a .929 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average.
Twice in 2011-12, Hutton was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, becoming the first IceHogs player to receive the award twice. He was also named Rockford’s Most Valuable Player.
Hutton began the season on an AHL contract with Rockford and was rewarded with an NHL deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24. The goalie was recalled to Chicago twice in the final month of the regular season to backup Corey Crawford and then again in the postseason to serve as the team’s #3 goalie in the playoffs.
Not bad for a guy who began 2011-12 as a third option for the IceHogs while playing in Toledo.
Heading into the offseason, Hutton is a restricted free agent after his brief one-year NHL contract expired.
Over the next few weeks, icehogs.com will review the highlights from the 2011-12 Rockford IceHogs season with "2011-12 In Review". Check back for more features from the team’s 13th season of professional hockey in Rockford.
Season Tickets for 2012-13 Now on Sale: Season ticket packages for the IceHogs 14th season of professional hockey in Rockford, including sixth as the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are now on sale. Call (815) 847-6399 to reserve your seats or visit icehogs.com for more information.