By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs and Toronto Marlies faced off for the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. When two teams that do not see one another very often play, it usually means the teams will feel one another out for the initial part of the game until a team can judge how the other will play and react. Wednesday, Dec. 21, it took the teams a little longer to find a weakness. Or, in Toronto’s case, a bounce going their way.
Forty minutes of hockey were played, and neither team was able to put a point on the board. Everything changed, however, in the third and final period, and Toronto was the first to capitalize. Rockford was caught deep in the Toronto zone, as the Marlies grabbed the puck and raced toward the Rockford zone. Simon Gysbers took initial possession of the puck and fed it to fellow defenseman Jesse Blacker, who took the puck hard to the net in the middle of the ice. Rockford managed to knock the puck loose before it got to the net, where it settled alone in the middle of the Rockford zone. ’Hogs goalie Carter Hutton was unable to see the puck as there were four players stacked in front of the net. An alert Jerry D’Amigo raced in and slapped the puck to the stick side of Hutton, and gave Tornoto the first goal of the game, 1:52 into the first period.
The ’Hogs would tie the game midway through the final frame, getting the equalizing goal on a redirected shot. The ’Hogs were on their second power play of the evening when Ben Smith redirected a Peter LeBlanc shot from the left point. Brett McLean, who will be playing for Team Canada in the 2011 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, from Dec. 26 to 31, held the puck on the right wing, and fed it across ice to LeBlanc, who fired a shot on net. Smith was parked right in front of Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens, and caught enough of the puck to alter its path past Scrivens.
It appeared the game would be heading to extra hockey, but Marcel Mueller made a good hockey play, and scored the go-ahead goal. ’Hogs defenseman Dylan Olsen was in position, but decided to move in and play the body, and Mueller shifted left and moved around Olsen, putting him one-on-one with Hutton, who was unable to stop the shot.
Rockford got a break shortly after when D’Amigo was called for a Delay of Game penalty with 1:26 left in regulation, giving Rockford a power play for the remainder of regulation. With Hutton sent off for the extra attacker, the ’Hogs had a six-on-four advantage, but were unable to get the puck in the back of the net. Toronto wound up getting two empty-net, shorthanded goals at 18:54 and 19:41 to seal the road win, 4-1.
Key points for this week:
1. Good defense for both squads — For the first two periods, both teams were playing good defensively, clearing loose pucks from in front of the net, clogging the shooting lanes, and breaking up some odd-man rushes.
2. Scoring chances — Both teams had good scoring chances, most in the second period. Hutton made a great save on a breakaway attempt to keep the game scoreless, and Scrivens had some good saves with the puck sitting around his crease. Also, ’Hogs defenseman Ryan Stanton beat Scrivens with 1 second remaining in the middle frame, but the puck rang off the far corner crossbar.
3. Rockford missing a few key players — Brandon Pirri, who was ranked 10th in the AHL in scoring, and Jeremy Morin, were recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks for Wednesday’s game, leaving Rockford without one of their top scorers in Pirri, and a complete player in Morin. Both Morin and Pirri were returned to Rockford after their game in Chicago against the Montreal Canadiens, where Pirri registered one assist, two shots on goal and was a +2. Morin fired one shot on goal in the ’Hawks’ 5-1 win.
Rockford heads up to Milwaukee Monday, Dec. 26, to play the Admirals (results not available at press time), then Thursday, Dec. 29, to the Allstate Arena to face off against the Wolves, with both games starting at 7 p.m. The team then rolls back home Friday, Dec. 30, to host the Charlotte Checkers with a 7:05 p.m. start. For the third game in three days, Rockford heads south to Peoria for a matchup against the Rivermen at 6 p.m., which marks the first game of a seven-game road trip. The ’Hogs won’t see home ice again until Monday, Jan. 16, when the Texas Stars come to visit.
From the Dec. 28, 2011-Jan. 3, 2012, issue