By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs continued their winningways, taking two of three games in week 18.
Wednesday, Feb. 3, the IceHogs faced a recent familiar foe in the Grand Rapids Griffins. The ‘Hogs have had the Griffins’ number this year, boasting a 5-0-0-1 record, and added another win to that total, defeating Grand Rapids 5-3. Winger Brian Bickell was the story of this game, gathering one goal and two assists, which was good enough for the first star of the game. “It’s been a great ride,” Bickell said of the ‘Hogs’ recent winning ways. “Coach has been doing some great things”. Bickell started the scoring for Rockford with a helper from Evan Brophey. Brophey then added to his point total by tallying his ninth goal of the year about 9 minutes later, giving the ‘Hogs a 2-0 lead after the first. Grand Rapids scored the only goal in the second when Justin Abdelkader lit the lamp for the first time this year, closing the gap to 2-1. The third period was a complete turnaround from the second, as a total of five goals were scored in the period, three by Rockford. Pete MacArthur increased the lead scoring on the team’s fifth power play attempt of the night. Bracken Kearns and Mark Cullen scored 1 minute apart late in the third to secure the lead as the IceHogs once again defeated the Griffins 5-3. The weekend games had the first-place IceHogs traveling to Cleveland for a two game series against the Lake Erie Monsters. Rockford started Friday’s game slowly, only amassing four shots in the first period as the Monsters took a 1-0 lead into the second on a goal by Defenseman Wes O’Neil. Shooting attempts continued to be a problem in the second, as only five shots were attempted, but two of those shots found the back of the net when Richard Petiot slapped in his third goal of the season.
Randy Rowe took the lead back for Lake Erie later in the period while on the power play.
But the Monsters could not hold the lead as 24 seconds later, Bickell picked up a rebound off a Kyle Greentree shot, giving Rockford a 3-2 lead. Three minutes into the third, Greentree added to the score, notching his team leading 19th goal of the season. The Monsters closed the gap, when Rowe scored his second of the night.
Rockford would prevail, however, as a goal by Matt Keith and an empty-net goal sealed the fate for the Monsters, giving Rockford their fourth straight win, 5-3. Saturday would prove to be a struggle for the IceHogs, and shooting chances were limited again in the first as Rockford was down two goals at the end of the first. Backup goalie Joe Fallon, freshly returned from a one game call-up to the Chicago Blackhawks, did not receive much help early as the ‘Hogs only attempted one shot on goal for the first period. Fallon, who was called up to stand in for an ill Antti Niemi, described his first call-up to the “bigs” as a “great experience, seeing the guys in the locker room and how they prepare.” Coach Bill Peters must have lit a hot fire under the team between periods as the ‘Hogs would tally three goals in the second period. Adam Hobson, MacArthur and Greentree all helped the ‘Hogs’ cause for victory, bringing the game closer after two periods, 4-3. The deficit proved to be too much for the IceHogs, however, as the Lake Erie defense stood tall and limited Rockford’s scoring chances yet again, and defeated the ‘Hogs 5-3, ending the ‘Hogs’ four-game winning streak.
Rockford’s next game takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, in Milwaukee against the second- place Admirals. The team returns to Rockford at 7:05 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, when the Admirals come into town. The series will be a test for the ‘Hogs, and if they manage to win both games, or split the series with the Admirals, the ‘Hogs will hold on to a lead over the Admirals going into the 19th week of the season.
From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue