By Todd Reicher
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Similar to A Tale of Two Cities, this weekend was the tale of two games, both unique in their own ways. But it was not just any two games, it was two games against division rival Milwaukee Admirals. These two games were the first two of four times the teams will face one another in the next seven games—three of which are in Milwaukee.
The first of these two games was Friday, Feb. 12, in Milwaukee. This game would be pivotal for both teams as Rockford came in just 1 point out of first place, and Milwaukee was 1 point behind the IceHogs. In addition, both teams would be without certain key players: Rockford had Jack Skille and Mark Cullen out of the lineup, and Milwaukee was without the service of their captain, defenseman Nolan Yonkman and all-star forward Cal O’Reilly.
Rockford got on the board first as a Darryl Boyle slap shot was fought off by Admirals goalie Chet Pickard, only to be picked up and placed in by Evan Brophey.
Toward the end of the first, Milwaukee winger Triston Grant got one past Corey Crawford, tying the game at 1.
Domination was the theme of the second period, as the ’Hogs held Milwaukee to just six shots on goal, and throwing out 15 of their own, two of which found the back of the net. The first of the two came on the power play as Kyle Greentree netted his team-leading 21st goal of the season. The assist was started by Bracken Kearns, who gained control of the puck from behind the Admirals’ net and found Greentree out front.
Jake Dowell picked up a rebound shot by Rob Klinkhammer, giving the ’Hogs a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Milwaukee was not about to go away silently, as 3:40 into the third, Hugh Jessiman slipped one past Crawford, narrowing the gap to one goal.
Back and forth they went for most of the third. The Admirals’ best chance came with less than 4 minutes remaining when ’Hogs defenseman Jassen Cullimore was called for a delay of game penalty. Crawford, however, failed to allow any more goals in, as he made some of his best saves of the night while the team killed off the penalty.
With their goalie pulled, Rockford winger Matt Keith forced a turnover by the defensive blue line and found Richard Petiot, who made a great wrap-around goal, sealing a 4-2 victory.
Saturday, Feb. 13, the teams met for the second time in as many days, but this time in Rockford. The ’Hogs’ lineup was short another man as winger Brian Bickell was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks. This time, the roles would be reversed as Milwaukee’s defense flourished, and Rockford’s offense floundered.
Danny Bois scored the first goal of the night as he grabbed a puck from the right wall and put it toward the front of the net, where it went off an Admirals player’s skate and past goalie Mark Dekanich.
Milwaukee would turn up the power as the Admirals posted three unanswered goals and took the home advantage, and momentum, away from the ’Hogs.
The ’Hogs were held to just nine shots on goal after the first two periods, but the game remained close at 3-2 after 40 minutes of hockey. The second ’Hogs goal came off a deflection from the right side of the goal by Brophey while the ’Hogs were on the power play.
“We weren’t picking up passes,” said Bois. “The effort was there, but the execution was just not there tonight.”
Shots were more frequent in the third, as Rockford attempted 15, although none found the back of the net. Dekanich played a fabulous third period for the Admirals, and literally saved the game, making some of the best stops of the night, helping the Admirals to a 3-2 victory.
“In the third period, we played good enough to win, but we didn’t play like that in the first two periods,” Bois stated.
Rockford’s next home game is Friday, Feb. 19, as the team faces the San Antonio Rampage at 7 p.m. The same teams meet again the following night, Saturday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.
From the Feb. 17-23, 2010 issue