Tales from the Trough: ‘Hogs grab more points as playoffs approach

March 10, 2010

IceHogs' newly-acquired defenseman Nick Boynton plays the puck in the defensive zone. A 10-year veteran, Boynton has registered more than 500 career games in the NHL. Photo by Todd Reicher

By Todd Reicher

Sports Columnist

Rockford continued to rack up points as the IceHogs won two of four games last week, gathering 5 points.

The ’Hogs’ first game of the week was Wednesday, March 3, as the Lake Erie Monsters came into town. Just 31 seconds into the game, Lake Erie forward T.J. Hensick grabbed a loose rebound in front of Corey Crawford and popped a shot into the back of the net for an early lead.

Four minutes later, Bracken Kearns blasted in a short-handed goal with a great assist coming from Jack Skille, who showed great patience as he feigned a shot, confusing the back-checking Monsters to skate past the passing lane.

On the same power play opportunity, Justin Mercier helped the Monsters regain the lead, getting a shot past Crawford, who was playing for a shot by the assisting Randy Rowe.

The only score in period two belonged to Rockford as Evan Brophey tallied his 12th goal of the season. The score came off a blocked shot from Pete MacArthur, which caromed off Monsters net minder John Grahame into the waiting stick of Brophey.

Defense stood tall in the third period, holding Lake Erie to only five shots on goal. Just more than halfway through the period, Rockford’s Brian Bickell scored on the power play, giving the ’Hogs a 3-2 edge. Lake Erie pulled Grahame with 80 seconds left in the game, but the ’Hogs’ defense refused to relent, as Rockford shut down the man advantage, securing the win.

Friday, March 5, the Texas Stars hosted Rockford for the first game of a five-game road trip for the ’Hogs. Texas has proven a tough opponent for Rockford this year, as the ’Hogs are just 1-3-1-0 in five games versus the Stars.

The first period belonged to Rockford as MacArthur and Derek Nesbitt both found the back of the net. One of Rockford’s newest members, Nick Boynton, scored his first point for the ’Hogs, assisting on Nesbitt’s goal. Boynton, who is a 10-year NHL veteran playing more than 500 games, was playing his second game in an IceHogs sweater.

Boynton was picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks from the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday morning, March 3, and skated with the ’Hogs later that afternoon in his first game for the team.

“I’m happy to be here and helping any way I can,” Boynton said of his recent arrival. “I’ve played with Cully (’Hogs’ defenseman Jassen Cullimore) and Toivonen (Rockford’s newly-acquired goalie Hannu Toivonen), which helps the transition. This team makes it easy.”

Texas answered with three goals in the second period, giving the Stars a 3-2 edge.

Rockford evened the score at 3 when Matt Keith beat goalie Matt Climie. Danny Richmond and Jake Dowell were credited with assists on the goal. With no additional scoring in the third, Rockford was guaranteed a point by getting the game to overtime.

However, the Stars would score the game-winner in overtime as Travis Morin beat Crawford with a hot shot over his left shoulder.

Games two and three of the road trip took place in San Antonio as the ’Hogs faced the Rampage for Saturday’s and Sunday’s games.

Saturday’s (March 6) game had the ’Hogs starting off hot as the ’Hogs had a three-goal first period with scores by Keith, Nesbitt and Bracken Kearns.

Both teams lit the lamp once in the second. The first of the scores came when Rampage captain Jeff Hoggan scored 8 minutes into the second. Rockford’s goal came 4 minutes later when Nesbitt netted his second of the game, bringing the lead to 4-1 after two periods.

The score would remain the same, thanks to excellent goaltending by Rockford’s newly acquired tender Toivonen, who stopped 32 of 33 shots he faced.

Rockford and San Antonio faced off again Sunday, March 7, in the second game of the back-to-back series. This game had a completely different feel compared to the previous game. Only two penalties were called the previous night, both on the Rampage, and more than 30 infractions were marked Sunday, including game misconduct penalties that ejected ’Hogs players Boynton and Kyle Hagel, and well-known San Antonio goon Francis Lessard for the game.

Crawford’s recent struggles continued, as he gave up four goals this game before being pulled in the second period in favor of Toivonen. This was the fifth time Crawford has given up four or more goals in his last eight starts.

The score was knotted at two after the first with Rockford scoring the first two, and the Rampage answering with two of their own later in the period.

San Antonio tacked on three more goals in the second, taking a commanding 5-2 lead into the third period.

Rockford hoped to cut into the lead in the third, but was unable to amass any additional scoring. San Antonio tacked on two more goals later in the third to hand Rockford a deflating 7-2 loss. With the loss, Rockford picked up 5 out of a possible 8 points this week.

Rockford’s next games take place Friday, March 12, and Saturday, March 13, as the ’Hogs play a two-game series in Manitoba against the Moose, ending their five-game road trip. Rockford comes back home Sunday, March 14, when the ’Hogs battle the Houston Aeros.

From the Mar. 10-16, 2010 issue

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