By Todd Reicher
Wednesday, Nov. 3, was the first of 10 regular-season meetings between the Rockford IceHogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals held the advantage last year over the ’Hogs in their 10 games, finishing 6-4 for the 2009-2010 season.
Milwaukee would get the jump on the ’Hogs, scoring midway through the first period. Admirals defenseman Teemu Laakso blasted a shot from the left point, which missed the far post and bounced out to a waiting Jamie Lundmark, who quickly snapped it past ’Hogs keeper Hannu Toivoinen for a 1-0 lead.
The Admirals would extend the lead to 2-0 under 2 minutes later when Aaron Johnson scored his first goal of the year. Andreas Thuresson took the puck hard to the net, and attempted a pass across the blue paint. ’Hogs d-man Nick Leddy broke up the initial pass, but no one from Rockford could locate the puck. Johnson made a heads-up play in front of the ’Hogs’ net and was awarded with a goal, putting Milwaukee ahead by 2 at the end of the first.
Neither team would collect a point in the middle stanza, although both teams had good opportunities with Rockford getting one powerplay and attempt and two for Milwaukee.
Rockford started the third period shorthanded, but managed to stave off another Milwaukee man advantage, causing Milwaukee to go 0-4 on their powerplay.
Shortly after Rockford killed off the penalty, they would be awarded their third powerplay of the night when Grant Lewis was tagged for holding.
With the man advantage winding down, Ben Smith grabbed the puck along the far boards and passed to Ivan Vishnevskiy on the far blueline. Vishnevskiy blasted a shot that was fended off by Ads goalkeeper Mark Dekanich. The rebound came out to the left circle where Kyle Beach found the loose change and slapped it home to bring the ’Hogs to within 1.
As the third period wound down, ’Hogs Coach Bill Peters pulled Toivoinen in favor of an extra attacker. With just more than a minute left in the game, the ’Hogs were faced with a key offensive zone face-off. Brandon Pirri won the faceoff, which was grabbed by Vishnevskiy, who cycled the puck to his Russian comrade Igor Makarov. The Russian made an amazing one-time pass to the net, where Jeff Taffe slammed it home, knotting the score at 2-2.
Neither team was able to capitalize in the 5-minute overtime period, and the teams headed for a shootout.
Both netminders failed miserably in the shootout with both teams scoring three goals on four attempts in the first four rounds. Going into the final round, Ads winger Gabriel Bourque had Toivoinen beat, but shot the puck wide of the net.
With a chance to win the game, Taffe grabbed the puck at center ice and skated confidently toward Dekanich. Taffe slowed as he got closer, switched multiple times from backhand to forehand, then flipped a quick forehand wrister over the glove of Dekanich, completing Rockford’s come-from-behind victory.
Rockford’s next game came against the Manitoba Moose, who earlier in the season spoiled the ’Hogs’ home opener. The game was to be a test to see if the ’Hogs had grown as a team since their previous 5-2 loss against the Moose.
The defensive game was fought back and forth with both sides making great plays on both ends of the ice. Moose goalie Eddie Lack made save after save, and Toivoinen did the same, extending his shutout streak to four straight periods.
Lack was seeing the most action with Rockford outshooting Manitoba 21-10 after two periods.
But, after 45 minutes of scoreless hockey, the ’Hogs would finally figure out Lack. After going 0-6 on their previous powerplay attempts, Ben Smith grabbed a loose rebound and found the back of the net, giving Rockford the first score of the game.
Toivoinen continued to play well, stopping the first 18 shots of the game. Unfortunately, that was all Toivoinen would stop for the remainder of the game. In an amazing turn of events, the Moose would score on their next three shots, all coming in a span of 1:27.
The first Manitoba goal came off a quick wrist shot from rookie Cody Hodgson, who netted his sixth goal of the year.
On their next trip into Rockford territory, Mario Bliznak threw a pass from the near corner to the opposite side of the ice to Jeff Tambellini, who beat a sprawling Toivoinen.
Thirty-two seconds later, Tambellini would get his second score of the night when Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner found him open just inside the far point. Tambellini made good on the shot, which finished off the ’Hogs 3-1.
The following night, the ’Hogs traveled down to Peoria to take on the Rivermen, who beat the ’Hogs in the opening week 6-2.
Rockford’s penalty kill would fall off the wagon, making the game easier for the Rivermen. After shutting out their last two opponents on the powerplay, Peoria finished the night two for six with the man advantage.
Peoria opened the scoring 3 minutes into the game with Anthony Nigro netting his first goal of the year. Tyler Shattock and former ’Hog Daryl Boyle were credited with assists on the goal.
Stefan Della Rovere added to the lead, scoring his second of the season later in the first. Shattock got his second assist of the young game on the play.
Two minutes later, newly acquired winger Hugh Jessiman would draw the ’Hogs to within 1. Rob Klinkhammer was credited with the helper on Jessiman’s first goal of the year, and first in a ’Hogs’ sweater.
Peoria would tally the only second-period marker, which was tallied by Mark Cundari just over the halfway point. The powerplay goal was the first powerplay goal Rockford had allowed in more than two games.
The Rivermen would tack another man-advantage goal in the third period when T.J. Hensick notched his fourth of the year.
Adding insult to injury, Peoria would score the fifth and final goal of the night with 40 seconds remaining in the game. Shattock got his third point of the night with the goal, sealing the 5-1 victory.
Rockford’s next game was Tuesday, Nov. 9 (scores not available at press time). The ’Hogs then travel to San Antonio to face the Rampage in a two-game series Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11-12. The ’Hogs’ next home game is not until Wednesday, Nov. 24, when the Lake Erie Monsters come to town.
From the Nov. 10-16, 2010 issue