Hockey: Tales from the Trough: Wolves halt IceHogs’ streak, Richards sent to Toledo

Rockford IceHogs goaltender Alexander Salak appears ready to return to the ice after a two-month stint on the injured reserve list. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

In the first game for both teams after the All-Star break, the Chicago Wolves put an end to Rockford’s season-high seven-game point streak.

Despite Rockford outshooting Chicago 32-18 and holding the Wolves scoreless on five power-play attempts, the IceHogs were unable to come out ahead and fell 4-2.

Right off the bat, it appeared Rockford was going to control the pace with a goal 96 seconds into the contest. Peter LeBlanc scored his fifth goal in four games with a snipe over the right shoulder of Wolves goaltender Eddie Lack to give Rockford the early lead. Ben Smith passed to LeBlanc around the middle of the ice, and LeBlanc skated across the blue line uncontested and ripped off a quick shot for the goal. Brian Fahey was credited with the secondary assist on the goal.

A late first-period goal from Tim Miller tied the score at 1-1 with 37 seconds remaining in the period. Miller carried the puck around the back of the net from left to right and somehow stuffed the puck past Carter Hutton, who appeared to have the post-area covered.

Two second-period markers in a span of 68 seconds put Chicago up 3-1.

Kevin Connauton created the first goal by skating hard from center ice to the middle of the offensive zone, mostly untouched. He dropped a pass back to Mark Mancari, who hit the right pad of Hutton. The puck bounced out hard right to Anton Rodin, who fired a shot past Hutton for the goal.

The second goal was set up beautifully by captain Nolan Baumgartner. After receiving a pass from Mark Matheson on the left blue line, Baumgartner faked right and skated toward the net, drawing traffic from the center. The move opened up a passing lane on the left side, where a picture-perfect pass found a wide-open Michael Davies, who was able to slap the shot into the back door, putting Chicago up 3-1.

Miller notched his second of the game after the midway point of the final point to give Chicago a commanding 4-1 lead. The redirected goal was Miller’s 13th of the season.

Rockford had a chance late, and Ben Youds scored on the power play with 50 seconds remaining. The shot appeared to hit a Wolves player who was stationed in front of the net as it changed directions and sailed behind Lack.

Fifty seconds was not enough time to stage a comeback, and Rockford fell 4-2 to the Chicago Wolves.

Sunday, Feb. 5, it was announced goaltender Alec Richards was sent down to the ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye. There has been no official statement, but it would appear that Alexander Salak, who has been on the injured list since Friday, Dec. 2, will be making his return to the ice for Rockford. Richards started the season fighting Salak for the starting goaltender position, and both netminders traded time throughout the season. Once Salak was injured, Hutton was recalled from Toldeo, where Hutton eventually became the go-to guy in the net, most noticeably by the end of January.

Goaltending has struggled this year for Rockford, with Richards showing a 7-11-2 record with an .893 save percentage and 3.55 goals against average in 22 contests. Hutton has turned his game — and Rockford’s season — around, and now posts a record of 10-6-2 after 20 tilts, carrying a .909 save percentage and 2.68 goals against average, as well as Rockford’s only shutout of the season.

Keys of the week:

Not much to mention for keys of the week since Rockford only played one game this week, but giving up two quick goals hurt the team. Rockford was clearly carrying the momentum through the first period, but the surprising goal at the end of the period seemed to sway the momentum Chicago’s way, and they found a way to pull ahead despite being outshot.

Looking forward:

Rockford has a four-game home stretch starting Wednesday, Feb. 8, when the Lake Erie Monsters come to town for a 7:05 p.m. game. The ’Hogs then host Chicago for two straight nights, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, with both games starting at 7:05 p.m. The two Chicago games are important for Rockford if they hope to climb the ladder and make a playoff push.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2012, issue

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