Hockey: Tales from the Trough: Opening weekend starts rough for Rockford

Rockford’s Carter Hutton (shown here in Rockford’s preseason game against Milwaukee) earned his first shutout of the year Saturday, Oct. 13, against the Chicago Wolves. Chicago’s Eddie Lack also earned a shutout for the Wolves, as Chicago beat Rockford in a shootout 1-0. Hutton would earn second star honors Saturday with Lack finishing as first star of the game. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

After a good 2-1 start in the preseason, the Rockford IceHogs looked to continue their momentum into the regular season with a double-header against the Chicago Wolves.

The first game was a show of both goaltenders, Eddie Lack for Chicago and Carter Hutton for Rockford.

Both teams started out somewhat timid in the opening frame, but opened up as the period grew longer. In fact, Rockford didn’t get their first shot on goal until roughly midway through the opening frame, as Chicago outshot Rockford 9-4 in the first 20 minutes.

Despite all of the shots, neither goalie allowed one into the back of the net.

This trend would continue through the remainder of the game with both netminders making save after save, stymieing and frustrating shooters.

Sixty-five minutes of hockey in the books, and neither team was able to put a point up on the scoreboard.

Rockford’s first game of the season would head into a shootout with both goaltenders receiving their first shutout of the year.

Our first official goals would finally materialize in the shootout with Jordan Schroeder getting a goal for Chicago, while Brandon Saad, Rockford’s first shooter, was denied. Brandon Pirri knotted the shootout at 1-1 after the second round, making good on his attempt.

From there on out, it was all Chicago in the shootout, with Bill Sweatt and Darren Haydar scoring for the Wolves and Lack denying attempts from Brandon Bollig and Peter LeBlanc to give Chicago the 1-0 shootout victory.

Sunday’s 3 p.m. matchup started off bad for Rockford and snowballed downhill as the game went on.

Andrew Ebbett scored 7:46 into the opening frame to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.

Sloppy play in Rockford’s own zone midway through the second led to a shorthanded goal for Chicago’s Nathan Longpre. Brett Lebda had trouble handling the puck in the Rockford zone, and Longpre swooped in to grab the loose puck, giving him a one-on-one with Hutton. Longpre beat Hutton over his right shoulder to add to Chicago’s lead.

Early in the third period, Brett Sterling scored an unassisted goal to increase Chicago’s lead to 3-0.

Rockford finally got on the board a few minutes later with Jeremy Morin scoring for Rockford on the power play.

Just more than 30 seconds later, a slashing penalty by Sterling put Rockford on the man advantage once again, and this time it was Marcus Kruger tallying the power-play goal for the IceHogs, drawing Rockford to within one goal.

The scoring frenzy would continue, but it was Longpre who tallied his second of the game to give Chicago another two-goal advantage at the 9:46 mark.

Not to be outdone, Morin would tally his second goal of the game just 29 seconds after Longpre scored to once again close the gap to within one.

However, that is the closest Rockford would come, and Sweatt all but iced the game with 2:44 remaining to give Chicago a 5-3 victory.

Rockford’s special teams played better Sunday, going 2-for-7 on the power play, while holding Chicago to 0-for-6. In total, Rockford would hold Chicago scoreless at 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the two-game series.

The IceHogs start week two Friday, Oct. 19, with their first regular season visit to Peoria to face the Rivermen for a 7:05 p.m. start.

Rockford’s first home game is the following night, Saturday, Oct. 20, against the Charlotte Checkers at 7:05 p.m. Both teams remain in Rockford Sunday, Oct. 21, with the second game of the doubleheader taking place at 5:05 p.m. at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

From the Oct. 17-23, 2012, issue

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