By Todd Reicher
During the regular season, Texas fared well against Rockford, going 6-2 over the season series. A glimmer of hope for the IceHogs was their record this season at the Cedar Center: 2-2. While the ’Hogs have had a good record against most opponents at home this season, they were 0-4 against the Stars at the Big Orange Box. If the ’Hogs had a hope of winning the series, they would need to take a game in Texas. They would also have to try to find a way to beat Texas goalie Brent Krahn, who holds a 4-0 record against the ’Hogs and allowed a total of four goals in those four games.
Rockford’s first game of the best-of-seven series took place in Cedar Park, Texas, against the second-seeded Texas Stars. As playoff games usually go, this was a physical matchup. Some early pushing and shoving led to matching roughing penalties for both teams, setting the physical tone.
As the ’Hogs were pushing hard into the offensive zone, Matt Keith lost the handle on the puck and Texas’ Jamie Benn picked it up for an eventual breakaway. Benn’s shot beat Corey Crawford between the legs, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Texas would add to their total close to the end of the second period. While on a 4-minute power play, from a double-minor high stick penalty by Kyle Greentree, Texas forward Ray Sawada chipped a puck over the head of Crawford that hit the crossbar. The festive puck landed on Crawford’s back, rolled down and over the goal line, giving Texas a 2-0 lead with 9 seconds left in the period.
With Krahn’s recent success against the ’Hogs, it would prove tough to climb a 2-goal deficit for a win. But Rockford wasn’t ready to give up yet. With the puck on the front door of the Stars’ goal crease, Rob Klinkhammer slid one past Krahn before he could cover it up, cutting the lead to 2-1.
That was the closest the ’Hogs would get as the team couldn’t get anything else past Krahn, depsite putting 28 shots on the netminder and a 90-second six-on-five at the end of the game. Texas held on for the 2-1 victory. The pushing and shoving from earlier carried over to late in the game, when Greentree was tagged with a game misconduct penalty with less than a minute remaining. The penalty led to a suspension for Greentree in game two.
The following night, the teams met again for game two, and once again, Texas goalie Krahn held the ’Hogs to just one goal.
For the second game in a row, the Stars scored first. Almost 13 minutes into the first period, veteran defenseman Maxime Fortunus notched his first goal of the postseason when he beat Crawford, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Texas would add to that lead just more than 4 minutes later with a goal from Perttu Lindgren.
After a second 2-0 deficit in two games, the ’Hogs would need to get something past Krahn. After a scoreless second, time was running short. The clock seemed to expire just more than a minute into the third as Sawada tallied his second goal of the postseason, giving the Stars an unsurmountable 3-0 lead.
Rockford made a game of it later as rookie Kyle Beach tallied his first professional goal when he banked a rebound off Krahn.
To continue their season, Rockford needs to do the following three things:
1. Figure out how to beat Krahn. Scoring one goal is not going to win games, at least against this Texas offense.
2. Break Texas’ undefeated streak in Rockford. With Texas holding a 4-0 record here this season, the ’Hogs need to make a statement and take control on home ice.
3. Break their 0-8 postseason losing streak. Dating back two years, the ’Hogs lost their last two postseason games in 2008 to exit the playoffs, were swept in four games by Milwaukee last season, and are starting off 0-2 this season.
Rockford hosts the same Texas Stars for games three and four of their playoff matchup this week. Game three tips off at the Rockford MetroCentre at 7:05 p.m., Wednesday, April 21, and game four at 7:05, Friday, April 23. If a fifth game is necessary, it will take place the following night, Saturday, April 24, at the MetroCentre. If the ’Hogs manage to win two of the three home games, the series will go back to Texas. A potential game six would take place Monday, April 26, at the Cedar Center in Cedar Park, Texas, and a seventh game the following night, Tuesday, April 27.
From the April 21-27, 2010 issue