By Todd Reicher
After losing both games in San Antonio the previous weekend, the Rockford IceHogs traveled far north to Manitoba for a two-game series against the Moose. These two games will be the last time these foes face one another in the 2010-2011 regular season.
Rockford’s Thursday, Nov. 18, game was eerily similar to their first game in San Antonio the week before; many shots taken by both teams, but very few goals allowed.
The only goal of the game was scored in the first period when Rockford center Brandon Pirri put one past Moose netminder Eddie Lack. Fellow 19-year-old rookie Jeremy Morin was credited with an assist, as well as Igor Makarov. The goal was scored off a turnover by Moose d-man Lee Sweatt.
Manitoba was very sloppy with the puck throughout the game, but Lack bailed them out on many occasions. Other than the first-period goal, Lack stopped 29 IceHogs shots throughout 60 minutes.
Rockford netminder Hannu Toivonen also stopped 29 shots, giving him his first AHL shutout since the 2006-2007 season when he played for the Providence Bruins.
Despite the shots-on-goal being quite close, in the third period, Rockford was outshooting Manitoba 10-1 in that particular period with 9 minutes remaining. Manitoba would pepper Toivonen with 12 shots in those final 9 minutes, all of which were halted by the Rockford backstop.
Both teams were very disciplined as a total of three combined penalties were called throughout 60 minutes of play with Rockford committing two infractions and the Moose with one.
The following night, both teams faced off again to finish their season series. With Rockford’s victory the previous night, the ’Hogs had a chance to end the season series tied at two.
Similar to the previous weekend against the Rampage, the goalie would get his second start in as many nights, as Toivonen was awarded with the start after a great shutout the night before.
Toivonen continued his stellar play, stopping 16 first-period Moose shots. The ’Hogs’ offense, however, only mustered a paltry four shots. Three penalties were called in the first, which equaled the number of penalties called the previous evening.
The second period was more of the same; few penalties, many shots on goal, and zero goals. Manitoba, once again, outshot the ’Hogs in the period, this time holding a 15-9 advantage.
After five straight shutout periods, Toivonen’s luck ran out. On their fourth powerplay of the evening, Moose center Jordan Schroeder tallied his second goal of the year. The goal, however, was not all on Toivonen as the IceHogs had all four players on the opposite side of the net from Toivonen, and no one was home to clear a loose puck.
Schroeder would score his second goal of the night 6 minutes later, increasing Manitoba’s lead to 2-0.
The Moose would get an empty net with 2 minutes left, solidifying their victory.
Rockford wouldn’t go down without a fight, though, as the ’Hogs took advantage of a late-game five-on-three to prevent the shutout. Morin scored his fifth of the year with less a minute left, but it wasn’t enough, as Manitoba defeated Rockford 3-1.
With 23 shots-on-goal for the game, the ’Hogs ended their streak of five consecutive games with 30 or more shots on goal.
The last game of the road trip had the ’Hogs down in Peoria taking on the Rivermen. The Rivermen roasted the ’Hogs in their first two home games of the season, 7-2 and 6-1, so the ’Hogs had a tough task ahead of them at the Carver Arena.
Nathan Oystrick scored the only first-period goal. He beat Alec Richards cleanly, giving the Rivermen a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. David Spina and ex-IceHog Derek Nesbitt were credited with helpers on the goal.
During an intermission interview, ’Hogs’ winger Hugh Jessiman discussed the ’Hogs’ lack of goals in the last few games. “We need to get to the net and get those dirty goals so we can get four to five goals a night,” he said. By “dirty goals,” Jessiman was referring to the tough, deep goals where players have to get their hands dirty and work hard for their goals.
His words must have hit a nerve as the ’Hogs took aim and fired shot after shot at Rivermen netminder Jake Allen—20 shots-on-goal in the second period alone. Of those 20 shots, two found the back of the net. Twenty-three seconds into the second, Morin scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season, knotting the score at 1.
David Spina scored his second point of the game with a powerplay goal shortly after the Rockford goal, giving Peoria a 2-1 lead.
Rockford evened the score almost halfway through the second. Defenseman Brian Connelly’s blast from the point was his first goal of the year, and team-leading 13th point of the season.
Despite outshooting the Rivermen by an almost 2-1 margin (27-14), the score was tied at 2.
An interesting fact for this season, before this game, Rockford was 0-4-0-1 for the season when tied at the end of two periods.
The shots were more even in the third with Peoria holding a 10-9 advantage. Both teams had good attempts, but both Richards and Allen stood tall, stopping all third-period attempts, sending the game to overtime.
Rockford held the advantage in the overtime, amassing five shots-on-goal to Peoria’s 0. However, none of the goals found the back of the net, leaving the score gridlocked at 2, leading to a shootout.
The first shootout goal didn’t come until the fourth round. Graham Mink grabbed the puck, skated hard over the line, and beat Richards.
Going into the fifth round, Jessiman had to make a goal to continue the shootout. Jessiman made good on the attempt and beat Allen five-hole to keep the shootout going.
In the sixth round, Shawn Lalonde’s first shootout attempt of the year was deflected off Allen’s glove, giving Peoria a chance to win in the bottom of the sixth.
Oystrick’s first attempt of the year was a good one, which was fired on the stick side of Richards and into the net, giving the Rivermen a 3-2 shootout win.
Rockford returns home Wednesday, Nov. 24, to face the Lake Erie Monsters with game time at 6:35. The team then heads up to Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Nov. 26, to play the Griffins. Puck drop is 6 p.m. The IceHogs then turn right around to come back to Rockford Saturday, Nov. 27, to once again play the Rivermen, with game time at 7:05 p.m.
From the Nov. 24-30, 2010 issue