In a 5-0 win Saturday, the Rockford IceHogs topped the Lake Erie Monsters for their 31st win of the season. It was also a record-setting night for IceHogs goaltender Michael Leighton. With his 35-save performance, Leighton passed Hall of Famer Johnny Bower for the career AHL shutout record with his 46th whitewash. The win was Leighton’s 27th of the year and his fifth shutout of the season, and also his 10th shutout as a member of the IceHogs.
Leighton’s career in the record books
At 34 years old, Leighton has had an interesting career since being drafted 165th overall in the 1999 NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He got his first taste of NHL starting experience on the god-awful 2003-04 Chicago Blackhawks alongside Jocelyn Thibault and Craig Anderson. He would return to the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals, Rochester Americans and Portland Pirates for the next four seasons before making his NHL return with the Flyers and Predators briefly.
He would have an extended stay at the NHL level with the Hurricanes and Flyers from 2007-2011, most notably taking over the Flyers starting position in the middle of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and leading Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Final, where it ultimately lost in six games to the Blackhawks and Leighton allowed the overtime series-winning goal from Patrick Kane.
Leighton would bounce between the AHL and NHL with the Flyers organization for the next few years before playing a year in the Russian KHL league, and then ultimately landing back with the Blackhawks organization last season. Leighton has appeared in 439 regular season AHL games, with a career record of 220-163-41, which ranks him ninth on the all-time AHL wins list.
He also set the shutout record in roughly 150 fewer games than it took for Bower, who played in 592 games. After Saturday’s win, Leighton is 27-6-8 this season with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He was also named to his fourth career AHL All-Star Game earlier this year.
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“It has been a month since my last shutout, so I wanted to get it done and I wanted to get it done at home,” Leighton said after the shutout. “That was a big thing for me. I would have taken it anywhere, but to have it at home and see my family on the ice afterwards was unbelievable.” Leighton also said the record is as much a credit to him as it is to his teammates. “I’m happy to be able to share this record with them, too,” he said.
Rockford gets back at it right away with an afternoon tilt against the same Lake Erie Monsters today in Rockford.