By Todd Reicher
It had been quite a few games since the Rockford IceHogs had seen a win. Five, to be exact. The ’Hogs hoped to break out of the slump Friday, Feb. 4, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Neither team started the game off hot, and both goalies saw little action with a combined total of 11 shots in the first 20. There were quite a few penalties, and five of the seven penalties in the game came in the first period.
Rockford’s hope of ending their losing streak looked bright early in the second. Thirty-three-year-old Wade Brookbank tallied his second goal of the season with assist from Brian Connelly and Peter LeBlanc.
Milwaukee had an answer, however, as All-Star Linus Klasen found team captain Brett Palin streaking toward the goal, where he beat Hannu Toivonen for his first goal of the season.
The Admirals would tack on two more unanswered goals, giving the Ads a 3-1 lead midway through the third period.
After Blake Geoffrion scored the Ads’ third goal of the game, the IceHogs finally responded with their second of the night. ’Hogs leading point scorer Jeff Taffe netted his 14th of the season with Connelly getting his second point of the night and Ryan Potulny getting the secondary helper.
With more than 7 minutes left in the third, Rockford still had a chance to break out of their slump. Both teams had chances to shut the door, but were unable to convert on any chances. That was until the ’Hogs pulled Toivonen in favor of an extra attacker. Milwaukee’s Palin would put the icing on the cake with less than a minute remaining in regulation with an empty-net goal, sending the ’Hogs back to Rockford with a 4-2 loss.
Now with a six-game losing streak on the books, the ’Hogs hoped to bounce back against the Abbotsford Heat. Rockford only faces Abbotsford four times a year, and Rockford had won both games in Abbotsford early in the season, and the Heat returned the favor back in late October beating the ’Hogs 4-1.
Things started out rough for the home team. Abbotsford got out to a quick 2-0 lead under 7 minutes into the game. Heat captain Quintin Laing tallied his second goal of the campaign, and two-and-a-half minutes later, Greg Niemsz would record his 12th of the season, putting the ’Hogs in a hole early.
The second period had Rockford coming out hot. Rockford’s penalty minute leader, Kyle Hagel, scored his fourth of the season with assists from Brandon Pirri and Hugh Jessiman.
Despite being outshot 23-17 in the first two periods, the ’Hogs were still in the game.
Rockford came out with fire once again in the third period, and Potulny would net the equalizer less than 2 minutes into the third. Taffe and recently recalled forward Andy Bombach were credited with helpers on Potulny’s 13th goal of the year.
With time winding down in the third, Rockford was given their big chance to break the six-game skid and leave with a big win.
In 82 seconds, the Heat’s Chris Breen and T.J Brodie were tagged for tripping and high-sticking penalties, giving the ’Hogs a 38-second five-on-three advantage.
With a few recent five-on-three failures behind them, Rockford ended not only the two-man advantage streak, but also their six-game skid when Kyle Beach slapped one past Jean-Philippe Lamoureux for his 10th of the season.
Abbotsford had a chance late to try to steal back a point when Garnet Exelby was sent to the box for an interference penalty with 45 ticks left on the clock. The Heat immediately pulled Lamoureux for the next face-off, but Alec Richards responded and blocked off the net for the remainder of the period, completing Rockford’s come-from-behind win, 3-2.
Rockford’s next game is at home at 6:35 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the MetroCentre. The team then heads down to Texas for a quick two-game series against the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday, then turn right back around and drive past home up to Milwaukee once again to face the Admirals at 5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 13.