By Todd Reicher
If you went to the BMO Harris Bank Center Monday, Jan. 16, expecting a high-scoring, heavy-hitting and hard-punching hockey game, you were sorely disappointed. If you went expecting Rockford to play a strong game and get their first shutout win of the year, then you were in luck.
In a battle of goaltenders and defense, the Rockford IceHogs edged out the Texas Stars 2-0 Monday in front of a crowd of 4,717 fans.
Getting his third start in a row, Carter Hutton stopped 34 shots and earned the first shutout of the year for the ‘Hogs. In those last three games, Hutton has allowed just three goals and holds a record of 2-1-0.
But the win did not come easy, as Andrew Raycroft, Texas goaltender, was playing just as well as Hutton, stopping 32 of 34 shots he faced.
“Looking down the rink seeing Raycroft play well was kind of disheartening, and you’re watching a guy steal a game down there,” Hutton said after the game. “But we knew we could get a couple goals and our power play came up big in the end there.”
Indeed, the power play did come alive for Rockford. The ’Hogs had been held scoreless in their last 11 power-play opportunities, but with 4 minutes remaining in the game, Jeremy Morin sealed the win with a power-play goal. Ben Smith made a great pass and Morin buried the shot. Brian Fahey was the secondary assist on the goal. After the goal was scored, Hutton pumped his fist and skated over to the near boards, where he hammered the butt of his stick against the boards in celebration.
And not only did the power play finally click for Rockford, the penalty kill has been outstanding in the last four games, holding their opponents scoreless in their last 17 shorthanded attempts.
“I think our overall team defense and trying to take care of our end a little better and not give up as many line rushes is huge for us,” Hutton said.
The game was tied at zero after 20 minutes of hockey, and it wasn’t until the midpoint of the second frame that the first goal was tallied.
Brandon Pirri held the puck a few feet off the right side of the net and slid it across the blue paint past Raycroft. Waiting on the other side of the net was a recent arrival to Rockford, Brandon Svendsen, who buried the puck for his first goal of the season. Svendsen was in Rockford in the preseason in tryout camp and was signed to a PTO (Professional Try Out) contract last week.
Rockford hosts the Chicago Wolves Friday, Jan. 20, at 7:05 p.m., then heads to Rosemont the following night to finish a home-and-home series with the Wolves. The ’Hogs are back home Sunday, Jan. 22, to play host to the Milwaukee Admirals at 5:05 p.m.