By Todd Reicher
Rockford had a very busy week last week, and performed well, earning them a three-game win streak. The team also played a very stingy defense, allowing only two goals in those three games, including a shutout on the road against the Chicago Wolves.
But that was last week’s news. This is a different week, and a seemingly different team. The same team that only allowed those two goals in three games would disappear, as Rockford allowed a total of eight goals in the two games played this week.
The first of the two games, Friday, Jan. 21, against the Oklahoma City Barons, was a close match. The Barons jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead early in the first off goals by Greg Stewart and Colin McDonald. The goal by McDonald, his 21st on the year, came on a breakaway attempt where he beat Hannu Toivonen low-glove side.
Rockford would close the gap a few minutes later with a power-play goal by ’Hogs leading goal scorer Jeff Taffe. The tip-in goal was set up by Mathis Olimb and Shawn Lalonde.
The score would be knotted at 2-2 early in the second when Igor Makarov netted his fifth goal of the season. Brandon Pirri took the puck up the middle of the ice against two defenders, moved the puck backhand/forehand, then shoveled it to Makarov, who beat goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers.
It would take exactly 12 minutes for the next goal, and it was by the Barons. McDonald tallied his second marker of the night while in transition. Ex-IceHog Richard Petiot found Brad Moran streaking up the left boards, leading to a two-on-one, which McDonald would bury for the 3-2 lead.
AHL veteran, and two-time Calder Cup winner with the Hershey Bears, Alexandre Giroux, gave the Barons a 4-2 lead less than a minute later. Giroux moved the puck alone into the offensive zone and took a shot, which was initially blocked by Brian Connelly. The ’Hogs couldn’t locate the puck, which bounced right back to Giroux, who quickly wristed it to the back of the net for his 22nd goal of the season.
Peter LeBlanc, who has cooled off after a hot start, brought the ’Hogs back to within 1 at the start of the third. Twenty-year-old Dylan Olsen, playing in only his third professional game, took a shot from the point, which was initially blocked down. LeBlanc got a handle on the puck as it was floating by the crease, and knocked it home, bringing the score to 4-3.
Rockford pulled their goalie with 1:30 remaining, but could not find the back of the net, and the Barons skated away with a 4-3 victory.
The San Antonio Rampage returned to the MetroCentre the following night, Saturday, Jan. 22, for a rematch from a week ago, in which the ’Hogs were victorious. San Antonio had revenge on their mind for the annual Pink in the Rink game, in which player-worn jerseys would be auctioned off in a silent auction.
Someone must have forgotten to tell the ’Hogs about the game, as the packed house of 6,267 watched the IceHogs fall to a 4-1 defeat.
Only one marker was tallied in the first, and that was from San Antonio’s Jamie Bates, with his second of the season. The goal was one of only six shots taken by the Rampage, who were outshot by Rockford’s 15 in the first.
The Rampage would ramp up the score to 2-0 off a Mathieu Beaudoin goal a quarter of the way through the second period. Al Montoya stopped another eight IceHogs shots in the second period as Alec Richards allowed one on 13 shots that period.
Similar to the pervious night’s game, the ’Hogs scored quickly in the third. This time, under a minute into the frame, while on the power play, Taffe notched his 12th of the season. Lalonde and Richards were credited with helpers on the score.
San Antonio wouldn’t allow the game to get any closer. Ned Lukacevic brought the Rampage up by a pair a few minutes later in the third, and with an empty net, ex-IceHog Bracken Kearns found the back of the empty net, to seal a 4-1 Rampage victory.
Rockford has three games this week with the first taking place Tuesday, Jan. 25, in Peoria against the Rivermen (results not available at press time), then to Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Jan. 28, to take on the Griffins. The ’Hogs come back home Saturday, Jan. 29, to host the Admirals. Sunday and Monday, Jan. 30-31, defenseman Brian Connelly will represent the IceHogs in the AHL All-Star Game in Hershey, Pa. Last year, Mark Cullen and Jack Skille were chosen to represent the IceHogs.