Tales from the Trough: Busy week treats ‘Hogs well

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

The Rockford IceHogs had quite the busy week, and came away with 6 out of a possible 8 points, and a 3-1-0-0 record. After going 3-2-1-1 in seven straight home games, the ’Hogs finished 3-1-0-0 with three road games, with the loss coming at Oklahoma City. In that game, the ’Hogs were up 1-0 going into the third period, and found themselves on the losing end of an Oklahoma City Barons comeback.

Of the four games played, the first game was against the Milwaukee Admirals at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee Tuesday, Dec. 28. Some leftover heat existed between these two teams, and Kyle Hagel continued to rack up PIMs when he squared off 5 minutes into the first with Kelsey Wilson.

Rockford would strike first on the powerplay as Mathis Olimb, who has only started in the past few weeks because of injury, scored his fourth of the season. Brandon Pirri and Peter LeBlanc were credited with assists on the goal.

Milwaukee evened the score midway through the second with a goal by Dylan Hunter.

The rest of the game belonged to Rockford. Converting on a second powerplay late in the second, Ben Smith rattled in his sixth of the season with helpers from Jeff Taffe and Ryan Potulny.

Evan Brophey would get an unassisted goal 5 minutes into the third to stretch the lead to 3-1, and Olimb would get his second goal of the night with an empty-netter assisted by Kyle Beach.

Hannu Toivonen got the call once again for Rockford, and had an impressive showing with a 22 save game, and was also awarded the first star of the game.

Thursday, Dec. 30, the Houston Aeros came into town for the last game of 2010.

The Aeros took the lead first while on the man advantage late in the first. Robbie Earl caught a rebound let out by Toivonen, who was down and out, and Earl went top shelf, well out of the reach of Toivonen.

The second period did not have any scoring, but it had plenty of action. The moment that really got the crowd roaring was just more than 2 minutes into the second period. Brandon Bollig faced off with Matt Kassian in a hard-fought, 2-minute slugfest, with Bollig coming out the clear victor. Bollig gave up 3 inches and almost 40 pounds to the 6-foot-5-inch Kassian, and left him with a large cut under his right eye, and a large amount of blood on the ice. The sellout crowd of 6,116 people roared in ovation as both men were sent to the penalty box for the major penalty.

At the very next puck drop, Hagel squared off with Pascal Morency, and the two went to the ice in a matter of 3 seconds. Morency ducked to miss a punch and quickly grabbed Hagel and wrestled him to the ground.

As the third period drew longer and tempers heated up, so did the ’Hogs’ offense. Ryan Stanton rushed into the center of the ice and tried to wrist a shot on goal. The shot deflected off an Aeros player’s shin and over to the opposite side of the ice, right onto the stick of Rob Klinkhammer. Aeros netminder Matt Hackett was playing the opposite direction, anticipating the Stanton shot, which left Klinkhammer with a wide-open shot, which he buried, giving the ’Hogs their first lead of the game.

With 15 seconds left in the game, Hagel got the Gordie Howe when he launched a shot at an open Houston net, giving him his third goal of the season, and sealing the victory for the ’Hogs 3-1.

For the first weekend of 2011, Rockford headed down to Oklahoma City to face the Barons. Another low-scoring event for the ’Hogs, but unfortunately, they would be on the losing end.

Rockford grabbed the lead first in the second period with an Evan Brophey goal just more than halfway through the second period.

The score would remain 1-0 until 9 minutes into the final frame. Just 7 seconds into the powerplay, Colin McDonald tallied his 18th goal of the season, knotting the score at 1-1.

One minute later, Brophey would get flagged for slashing, and the Barons would once again take advantage of the extra skater. Linus Omark lit his 14th lamp of the year, giving the Barons a 2-1 lead, which they would retain for the rest of the game. The loss would mark Toivonen’s first regulation loss in his last seven starts, something that has been a weak spot for Rockford most of the year (although the goalies cannot be blamed for a number of goals against, as the defense has not helped them out at times).

The following night, Rockford would look to even the weekend series with a win, and this game was the complete opposite of the previous night. Both teams would combine for a total of 11 goals on this night, with Rockford coming ahead 6-5.

Ivan Vishnevskiy, Beach, LeBlanc, Potulny, Smith and Brophey all tallied markers for the ’Hogs. A total of five ’Hogs players had a multiple-point night, and LeBlanc led the team with 3 total points (one goal, two assists).

Alec Richards got the start and, like his counterpart Martin Gerber, was assaulted with shots. Both goalies stopped 30 shots, but Rockford held the advantage of shots taken, 36-35.

Rockford’s penalty kill, which had been playing brilliant in the last few months, was only 4-7 this game, giving the Barons many chances to get back in the game. The last goal for the Barons came on the powerplay with 26 seconds remaining in the game. The ’Hogs managed to stave off the high-powered Oklahoma City offense, walking away with the win and 6 out of a possible 8 points in week 13.

Rockford has a light week and a four-game home stand ahead of them. The ’Hogs take on the Toronto Marlies Friday, Jan. 7, with game time at 7:05 p.m. The following night, the Grand Rapids Griffins return to town with puck drop at 7:05 p.m.

From the Jan. 5-11, 2011 issue

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