By Todd Reicher
With Halloween approaching, the ’Hogs were tricked, going 0-1-1 in their two games last week.
In their first meeting of the 2010-2011 campaign, the ’Hogs faced off against the team that swept them out of the playoffs last year, the Texas Stars, Wednesday, Oct. 27. Rockford has always had a tough time with Texas, and has yet to beat them at the MetroCentre. Stars goalie Brent Krahn played an amazing series against Rockford last year, and if the ’Hogs wanted to win against Texas, they needed to get to Krahn early.
Similar to the playoffs last year, Texas was on the board first. Tristan King scored his first goal of the season 3:21 into the first period. Rockford tried clearing the puck from the offensive zone, and King grabbed the puck as it was heading toward the blue line, then skated in toward the top of the right circle and sniped it in the top right corner, beating ’Hogs netminder Hannu Toivoinen.
Rockford would answer later in the first. While on their first powerplay of the evening, Brandon Pirri rang his second goal horn of the year. After receiving a pass from defenseman Brian Connelly, Pirri skated the puck toward the top circle and shot a laser past Krahn, knotting the score at 1-1.
In what was to be a back-and-forth game, Texas reclaimed the lead. Just after Texas hit the post on a shot from the right point, Aaron Gagnon was fed the loose puck and rifled a shot just over the head of Toivoinen, which rang off the crossbar, giving Texas a 2-1 lead.
The ’Hogs tallied the only second-period goal when Jeff Taffe notched his third of the season. The powerplay goal was set up by Kyle Beach, who made a nice pass from behind the net and found Taffe open for the tying goal.
Just shy of halfway through the third, Maxime Fortunus gave Texas the lead once again. Seconds after a Stars powerplay ended, Fortunus grabbed a pass from the far left corner, took the puck to the top point, and beat Toivoinen glove side.
Beach pulled the ’Hogs even 1:28 after the Stars goal with a quick wrister from the right point. Nick Leddy worked the puck from the defensive zone and moved it to Beach, who took the puck through both zones and into the net.
With the score tied at 3-3, and no victor through 5 minutes of overtime, the game went to a shootout.
After the first five rounds, both teams had tallied two markers. Beach and Pirri scored for Rockford and Colton Sceviour and Tomas Vincour scored for Texas.
Eight rounds transpired, and the shootout score remained tied at 2-2.
A victor was finally crowned in the ninth round. With Chris DiDomenico being stymied in his attempt, Mathieu Tousignant beat Toivoinen with a quick deke to the left, giving Texas a 4-3 shootout win.
Rockford’s special teams turnaround continued with the ’Hogs going 2-3 on the powerplay and halting Texas’ man advantage efforts 0-4.
With a few days rest behind them, the ’Hogs traveled to the Chicago suburbs to take on the Wolves. Rockford defeated Chicago in overtime in their last meeting just a week prior.
Scoring his second goal in two games, Pirri got Rockford on the board first.
Pirri took the puck to the right point and fed it to Leddy on the left point. As the two 19-year-olds exchanged the puck, Leddy immediately slapped the puck back to Pirri, where he hit a wide-open net. Immediately after the goal was scored, one of the Wolves’ radio announcers was amazed, saying “That’s talent.”
Leddy added to that lead just a few minutes later. Receving a pass at the right point from Connelly, Leddy blasted a shot from the point, hitting both crossbars before finding the twine.
However, two goals in the first would be all that Rockford could muster.
Chicago scored two second-period goals, tying the score at 2-2 after two periods. Nigel Dawes and Jaime Sifers both tallied their second goals of the season.
Mike Siklenka broke the 2-2 tie halfway through the final stanza. Up until this last penalty, the ’Hogs were batting 1.000 on the penalty kill in the last five periods of hockey, with a perfect 8 for 8. Richards fought off a few shots in rapid succession to keep the kill alive. On his last block, Richards came way out of the net on the right side, leaving himself out of position. Darren Haydar found Siklenka open about 10 feet from the net, where a wide-open net awaited. Siklenka made good, giving the Wolves the lead for the first time in the game, where it would stand at the end of the game, 3-2.
Although the ’Hogs were only awarded 1 out of a possible 4 points this week, there were some bright spots. The penalty kill was working better this week than in previous weeks, keeping the games close. The powerplay was also looking better, with the team finishing the two games 3-8 with the advantage.
What has been the team’s weak spot through these two games, and most of the season, is turnovers. On at least three different occasions, Rockford turned over the puck in their offensive zone, leading to scores for the opposition. I’m sure coach Bill Peters will be working hard to correct this in the next few practices. One of the challenges with a young team is the movement of those younger players from the juniors to the professional leagues and adapting to the faster pace in the pros. This will get better with time once these players adjust.
Rockford travels to Milwaukee Wednesday, Nov. 3, to face the Admirals for their first meeting of the season. The team then returns home Saturday, Nov. 6, playing host to the Manitoba Moose, who defeated Rockford in the season-opener 5-2. The following night, Rockford travels to Peoria once again to play the Rivermen, who beat up on the ’Hogs in the opening week 6-2.
From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue