By Todd Reicher
After being outscored by Peoria 11-3 in their last two meetings, the Rockford IceHogs looked to return the favor and get some revenge on the Rivermen.
Tuesday, Nov. 9, the Rivermen came to town for the first time this year.
As of late, the IceHogs have been better on the special teams, and they had a chance to take advantage early in the game. In a game that was to be laden with penalties, Rivermen center Dave Scatchard started off the deluge 5 minutes in for a tripping penalty. Kyle Beach got the ’Hogs on the board first when he slapped a shot over the stick side of Peoria goalie Ben Bishop. The shot was set up by a great cross-ice feed from Ryan Potulny.
Later in the first, Jeremy Morin scored his fourth goal of the season to give the ’Hogs an early 2-0 lead. Both Brandon Pirri and Igor Makarov had shots fended off by Bishop, but the last rebound, caught by Morin, found its way to the back of the net.
Shortly before the first period was about to expire, Ben Smith gave Rockford a 3-0 lead. With 20 seconds left in the period, Potulny found Nick Leddy alone at the blueline, where Leddy unloaded a shot. Smith was in front of the net and got a stick on the puck, which redirected it just enough to get it past Bishop, giving the ’Hogs a commanding 3-0 lead after one.
At the very end of the period, Scatchard was tagged for his second penalty of the night, which was a boarding call for a hit on Brian Connelly. Not caring for the way he was hit, Connelly had words with Scatchard, which led to an altercation between the two. As their fight was starting, Morin and Peoria winger Chris Porter got into it, as Morin engaged in the first fight of his professional career. It would also be Morin’s first game misconduct of his young professional career as he and Porter were ejected for secondary altercation penalties. For clarification, when players engage in a physical altercation leading to a fight while a fight is ongoing, the second fighting duo will be penalized with a game misconduct and ejected for the remainder of the game.
Rockford continued the second period the same way they ended the first. Tallying his third goal of the year (and third point of the night), Potulny, as he was falling down, sniped a shot over Bishop’s glove-side shoulder. Beach shot the puck from the left point, which was blocked off by Bishop, but right to Potulny, who made good on the shot.
After the ensuing puck drop, things would get ugly. Real ugly. Graham Mink and Rob Klinkhammer got into it on the far boards. Shortly after the duo was sent off to the box, play resumed, but not for long. Hugh Jessiman was flagged for a roughing minor in front of the Peoria bench.
Tempers flared and Evan Brophey was also tagged for a roughing penalty. While both teams collected in front of the bench, another tussle broke out, this time between ’Hogs scrapper Kyle Hagel and Anthony Peluso. Hagel, adhering to the silent code of taking your helmet off before a fight, was giving up 4-plus inches to Peluso, and he refused to remove his helmet for the fight. Hagel hung in there for the 2-plus minute fight, which was broken up without a clear victor. While this was taking place, ’Hogs captain Garnet Exelby got into it with tough guy Ryan Reaves. Similar to the first period, both players were ejected for secondary altercation misconducts.
After the dust settled, Peoria was awarded with a five-on-three powerplay. For a little more than a minute, Rockford goaltender Alec Richards was up to the task, stopping two shots on great scoring chances. However, he was unable to stop the third shot by Mark Cundari, who cut into the ’Hogs’ lead, 4-1.
The scoring ended here, but the penalty minutes would continue. Three more fights would occur in the remaining one-and-a-half periods, as well as other miscellaneous penalties. Both teams would amass a total of 158 minutes, with Peoria holding an 82 -76 advantage.
Beach was awarded the first Gordie Howe of the season, which is a single player having a goal, an assist and a fight in one game.
The game pace was controlled by the ’Hogs, who outshot the Rivermen 29-12 after two periods.
Richards made a strong bid for moving himself to starting goalie, stopping some key third-period shots (one was a breakaway by Mink), as well as a very good save shorthanded in the first. He finished the game stopping 20 of 21 shots.
Rockford would travel to San Antonio to face the division-leading Rampage in a two-game series Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11-12.
Thursday’s game would be night-and-day from the Peoria game. The only similarity between the two games was the number of goals Richards would allow. However, that goal would be the game-winning goal for the Rampage as Matt Climie pitched a 30-save shutout for the Rampage.
Neither team was able to take advantage of their powerplay opportunities, with the ’Hogs going 0-6 and the Rampage going 0-5.
After two periods, neither team put a point on the board, with Richards stopping an impressive 31 shots after two, and Climie fending off 18.
That would all change almost halfway through the third when San Antonio tallied the only marker of the night. While coming into the zone on a two-on-two, Mathieu Beaudoin made a nice crossing pass to Alexandre Picard, who stretched out for a tip-in goal.
Rockford had a few more scoring chances after the goal, but Pirri was sent to the box for a slashing penalty with fewer than 2 minutes remaining in the game, eliminating Rockford’s chance to get a six-on-five advantage.
Unfortunately, Rockford was unable to take advantage of Richards’ stellar play as the team played a very slow, poorly-defensive game. However, Richards would get another chance the following night when the coaches gave him the nod to start Friday’s game against the Rampage.
Friday’s game started off just like the start of Thursday’s game, with neither team able to get on the board. This time, however, Rockford would outshoot the Rampage 11-10.
San Antonio would tally the first goal of the evening when Brett MacLean beat Richards for a 1-0 lead.
This time, Rockford would answer with a goal of their own. Jessiman lit the lamp for the second time this year, knotting the game at 1-1. Leddy put a shot on goal, and Rampage netminder Al Montoya couldn’t contain the rebound, which Jessiman grabbed and put in the net. The powerplay goal was the only powerplay advantage converted by either team in the short two-game series.
The Rampage, however, would score twice in a matter of 1:07 with Beaudoin getting his team-leading ninth goal of the season and Mikkel Boedker tallying his third. As good as Richards was in his last four periods, he allowed three goals on eight shots in the second stanza.
Leddy closed the gap to 3-2 a few minutes into the third with a goal from just over the far face-off circle.
That would be all the scoring, however, as San Antonio would hold off a late flurry of shots and take a second 1-goal win in as many games.
Rockford would finish the two-game series 1-11 on the powerplay, and killed all 11 Rampage attempts. The ’Hogs’ problems this series came with their defense and clearing the pucks out of the defensive zone. All three goals in Friday’s game came when the ’Hogs had the puck just on the edge of the blueline for a clearing attempt, but the Rampage were able to keep the puck in the zone and capitalize on the keep-in.
The ’Hogs will have a few days of practice back in Rockford before the team heads off to Manitoba for a two-game stint against the Moose on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 18-19. Manitoba holds the advantage against Rockford this season with a 2-0 record. Rockford then travels back to Peoria for the fourth matchup against the Rivermen Sunday, Nov. 21. The next home game for the ’Hogs is Wednesday, Nov. 24, against the Lake Erie Monsters.
From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue