Hockey: Tales from the Trough: What a difference 24 hours makes

The Rockford IceHogs headed down to Texas for the weekend and split their two-game series with the Stars. In this photo from 2011, Brandon Pirri scores on Stars goaltender Brent Krahn in the shootout. The Texas Stars will visit the BMO Harris Bank Center Monday, Jan. 16. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

For the Rockford IceHogs, consistency has been an issue. Last weekend’s games were no exception.

On the first of two weekend games, the IceHogs played host to the Toronto Marlies Friday, Jan. 7.

Rockford was behind the eight ball early in the game when Ben Smith was flagged for hooking less than 1 minute after the puck drop. This penalty would turn out to be an advantage for the ’Hogs, with Igor Makarov scoring shothanded to put the ’Hogs up 1-0 early.

That fast start went downhill just as quickly as it started. ’Hogs goalie Hannu Toivonen, who has been brilliant as of late, was the exact opposite. In a span of just under 6 minutes, Toivonen faced just three shots. The bad news is, all of them found the back of the net, and Toivonen was pulled. Alec Richards came in as a substitution, but the damage had already been done. Richards stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced, but the ’Hogs were unable to muster any offense.

After their three first-period goals, Toronto scored once more in the second and again in the third to walk away with a seemingly easy 5-1 road victory.

Rockford was 0-3 on the powerplay while the Marlies were a successful 2-6, with their powerplay goals scored in the first and third periods.

Highly sought-after Marlies prospect Nazem Kadri was the second star of the game, notching one goal and two assists on the night.

The following night, Saturday, Jan. 8, was a completely different story. Rockford has fared well against the Grand Rapids Griffins in the last few years, and it is hoped this game would be the cure the ’Hogs needed to get over last night’s hangover of a game.

Defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy put the ’Hogs up first 4:35 into the first. Smith was credited with the assist, along with Evan Brophey.

Vishnevskiy added to his goal count for the night more than 1 minute later with a powerplay goal, giving the ’Hogs a 2-0 lead.

Defensive scoring continued later in the first. Shawn Lalonde would tie Vishnevskiy on their yearly goal total as he tacked on his fifth goal of the season with fewer than 5 minutes remaining in the first. Lalonde’s defensive partner Brian Connelly was awarded an assist on the goal.

Not to be outdone, Connelly added to the defensive scoring for Rockford just 34 seconds into the second period, extending the ’Hogs’ lead to 4-0. Connelly’s goal would lead to the exit of Griffins starting goalie Joey MacDonald and make way for Jordan Pearce.

But just like the previous night, the damage had already been done. And the netminder change didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Three minutes after the previous goal and goalie change, Jeff Taffe scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Some physical altercations took place with Kyle Hagel dropping the gloves with Adam Keefe in hopes of sparking some fire under the Griffins.

Two more fights would take place in the second with captain Garnet Exelby taking on Evan Rankin and Brandon Bollig (who had an amazing fight last week against Houston) roughed up assistant captain Greg Amadio.

Kyle Beach would add another goal midway through the third, closing the scoring for Rockford and bringing the lead to 6-0.

One more fight would take place with Makarov tying up with Brent Raedeke, leading to a game misconduct for Makarov. The misconduct was the result of Makarov’s jersey not being properly secured, as the fight strap came loose, allowing his jersey to be removed.

On the Rockford end of the ice, Alec Richard notched a 22-save shutout for the ’Hogs, his second of the year.

Rockford has three games this week with the first taking place at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford Wednesday, Jan. 11, against the Houston Aeros at 6:35 p.m. The ’Hogs stay home Friday, Jan. 13, against another Texas-state rival, the Texas Stars with game time at 7:05 p.m. The following night, the ’Hogs travel to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont to face the rival Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue

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