By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs put their seven-game point streak on the line Wednesday, Jan. 27, against the first-place Hamilton Bulldogs. The day before the game, Rockford Winger Kyle Greentree stated: “We don’t want to change our gameplan. We want to set the tone early.”
Unfortunately, the ’Hogs were not able to set any tone as Hamilton and goaltender Curtis Sanford held the Rockford offense in check. Sanford made 25 saves and shut out Rockford for the second time this year as Hamilton defeated Rockford 5-0.
By reading the stats, one would think the ’Hogs could not muster any offense, but the fact was Sanford played a great game. The Bulldogs were able to capitalize on their scoring changes, whereas Rockford was stopped cold.
Brock Trotter scored twice for Hamilton, while Andrew Conboy, Grant Stevenson and Greg Stewart also had markers for the Bulldogs.
IceHogs goalie Corey Crawford was pulled after giving up his fourth goal of the night at 1:26 into the third. Crawford finished the night saving 17 of 21 shots. Joe Fallon came on in relief, and saved nine of the 10 shots he faced.
Friday, Jan. 29, the Peoria Rivermen came to town for the first time in the 2009-2010 regular season.
In front of 5,521, the IceHogs came out on top over the Rivermen, 4-2. The game was the first-ever Pink in the Rink night. The event, which was to raise awareness for breast cancer research, gave some players a chance to let their hair down, as IceHogs players Rob Klinkhammer, Brian Bickell, David Phillips and Jonathan Carlsson dyed their hair pink. Also, most players replaced their traditional colored stick tape for pink stick tape.
Rockford lit the lamp first as Jack Skille scored 5 minutes into the second period on the team’s second power play of the night. Greentree and Richard Petiot were credited with assists.
Peoria retaliated later in the period, as Chris Porter scored after the ’Hogs turned the puck over in the defensive zone.
Forty-five seconds later, Rockford reclaimed the lead, once again when Greentree scored his team-leading 18th goal of the year from a feed from Skille. Bracken Kearns was also credited with an assist as he forced a turnover in the offensive zone.
The game was tied again 2 minutes later, when Jonas Junland tallied his 10th of the year for the Rivermen.
Captain Jake Dowell gave the IceHogs the lead once again in the third period off a redirect from rookie Defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin.
The tide appeared to turn as the Rivermen gained a four-on-three powerplay, but Crawford was up to the task, making his best saves of the night, and fought off the shorthanded assault.
Commenting about the game, first star Crawford said the team “had a little penalty trouble in the third, but we fought it off.”
Matt Keith added to the lead with less than a minute remaining in the game when he picked up a mishandled pass and skated toward an empty net, notching his 10th of the season.
For the fourth time this season, the IceHogs traveled to Grand Rapids to take on the Griffins. Saturday, Jan. 30, marked the sixth game the two teams have met this year, with the IceHogs leading the series 4-0-0-1, with the only loss coming in a shootout in Rockford Jan. 2.
Rockford jumped on the board first when Klinkhammer grabbed a rebound let out by Griffins goalie Thomas McCollum from a shot by Danny Bois.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the first stanza, Griffins defensiveman Logan Pyett streaked down the rink shorthanded. His first shot was fended off by Fallon, but the persistent Pyett quickly found the loose puck and put it past Fallon, tying the game at 1.
Akim Aliu had the only score in the second period when he picked up a rebound off McCollum from a hard shot by Bickell.
Later in the third, the Griffins, with a 3-2 rush, put one past Fallon to tie the game at 2 with just more than 4 minutes remaining.
With the Griffins gaining momentum in the IceHogs zone, Aliu showed his quick hands by picking off a pass and racing down for an eventual breakaway. The shot would never be attempted, as Aliu was fouled on his way in and awarded a penalty shot. As the crowd roared with boos, Aliu picked up the puck at the center line and, once again, showed his speed by making a nice move, and beat McCollum five-hole to give the IceHogs a 3-2 lead, which they would not relinquish.
The IceHogs’ next game will be Wednesday, Feb. 3, at the Rockford MetroCentre when they take on the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7:05 p.m. The team then travels to Lake Erie for two straight games against the Lake Erie Monsters. The first game will be Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m., and the second Saturday, Feb. 6, at noon.
From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.