By Todd Reicher
If it wasn’t for the Chicago Wolves, the Rockford IceHogs would only show two losses so far this season. Two of Rockford’s four regulation losses have come at the hands of the Wolves, who took their third win of the season against Rockford in a 6-3 win Friday, Nov. 2.
Once again, Rockford allowed an early goal as Chicago tallied their first marker at 4:34 of the first period. Andrew Gordon’s third goal of the season gave the Wolves an early 1-0 lead. Rockford failed to clear the puck out of the zone, which gave Chicago three good looks at the net. On the fourth look, Gordon found his way to the slot and fired the puck past Carter Hutton.
If you read last week’s article, I talked about how Rockford was losing offensive zone face-offs, which was hindering their scoring chances. On this particular face-off, Rob Flick won an offensive zone draw and fed the puck to his left for Philippe Paradis. The winger found Kyle Beach deep in the slot, who fired a quick wrister past Eddie Lack to even the score at 1-1.
Chicago’s Brett Sterling would put Chicago ahead once again with a powerplay goal late in the first. Sterling grabbed the puck in full stride at middle ice and raced into the offensive zone. The puck trickled off his stick and rolled behind the defense, where Sterling would pick it back up and fire it past Hutton for the goal.
The Wolves would score the next two goals, as Rockford could not keep themselves out of the penalty box for the first half of the period. Five of the first 10 minutes of the period found Rockford short-handed, although the Wolves were only able to capitalize on one of those opportunities.
The first of these goals came with Chicago scoring early, when Jordan Schroeder scored at the 2:46 of the second frame, increasing the lead to 3-1.
Bill Sweatt made it to 4-1 at the midway point of the second, which also marked the exit of Hutton, who allowed four goals on 14 shots. Alec Richards would come in to replace Hutton.
Rockford finally stopped the bleeding when Brandon Pirri tallied his fourth goal of the season while Rockford was on a power play. Martin St. Pierre took the puck along the boards and found Marcus Kruger streaking toward the net. Kruger fired off a shot, and Pirri was there to pick up the change and fire the puck past Lack to pull Rockford to within two goals.
A back-and-forth third period was broken open right after the midpoint of the final frame with a goal from Chicago’s Chris Tanev, his first of the season.
With time winding down, Beach tallied his second goal of the game, pulling Rockford back to within a two-goal deficit.
But Rockford could not prevent the Wolves from scoring once again to secure a 6-3 victory for their third-straight win against the IceHogs.
The following night, Rockford looked to get back to their winning ways against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Monsters owned Rockford last season, winning all four games against the ’Hogs, going 4-0, including 2-0 in Rockford.
Rockford prevented the Monsters from scoring early, and managed to get the first goal of the game. Brandon Bollig took the puck hard to the net, and in a mess of players in front of Monsters goaltender Calvin Pickard, the puck trickled into the net. In what appeared to be either a goaltender interference penalty or a high-sticking penalty, the goal was reviewed and stood up to give Rockford a 1-0 lead midway through the first.
In a matter of 4 minutes, the Monsters tallied three-straight goals to give Lake Erie a commanding 3-1 lead. Andrew Agozzino, Bill Thomas and Tyson Barrie scored 3:46 apart and once again put Rockford behind after one period.
Rockford had a few chances, but was unable to get one past Pickard.
Kruger, a typically level-headed and calm player, showed some aggression when he was tagged for a tripping penalty and subsequently tagged for a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The penalty riled up the ’Hogs’, bench and on the next shift, Rockford laid out four strong hits to Lake Erie players.
The IceHogs’ defense stiffened up and held Lake Erie to six second-period shots, but more importantly, no additional goals. Rockford managed eight shots on goal, and one of those eight made its way past Pickard via the blade of rookie Adam Clendening’s stick, his first professional goal.
At the end of the second period, with fans heading out to the concourse, a scrum broke out in the corner that led to some unexpected results. Lake Erie’s Patrick Bordeleau was shoving Dylan Olsen and continued pounding on Olsen as he curled up toward the ice. From the bench and sailing through the air came Andrew Shaw to the rescue of his teammate. Shaw began pounding on Bordeleau as the referees and linesmen pulled the two apart. As the atmosphere became thicker and words were flying, another IceHogs skater, Wade Brookbank, rushed off the bench, dropped the gloves and taunted Bordeleau to fight. Before the two could engage one another, one of the referees grabbed Brookbank and escorted him from the ice.
Bollig, who was on the ice at the time, skated toward the Lake Erie bench as Bordeleau was heading back in that direction and put two fingers at his own eyes and pointed at Bordeleau, letting him know he was watching him. The fallout showed game misconducts and ejections for Shaw, Bollig and Brookbank for Rockford, and the same fate for Bordeleau. Luckily for the ’Hogs, both teams were served with matching 2-minute penalties, and Rockford would skate four-on-four for the beginning of the third.
As of press time, the AHL has not yet announced any suspensions, but there will be suspensions for Brookbank and Shaw for leaving the bench. How many games has yet to be determined, but I would assume it will be a one- or two-game suspension for both players.
With the third period starting, Rockford was without three of their skaters, all enforcers, and still without the service of Kruger for a few more minutes.
The short bench gave some IceHogs players the chance to step up. First player to accept the challenge was Shawn Lalonde, who has seen limited playing time this season. While on a power play early in the third, Beach fired a shot from back by the blue line, which Pickard initially blocked away. However, Lalonde was in deep for a defenseman and alertly picked up the rebound and put it home for Rockford to tie the game at 3-3.
Trumping what Lake Erie did to Rockford in the first period, the ’Hogs would go on to score three additional goals in a matter of 3:10 to take a commanding 6-3 lead.
The first goal, a team-leading fifth for Pirri, put Rockford ahead once again. Brett Lebda, who had a 3-point game for Rockford, fired a shot from the near blue line, which Pirri redirected into the net.
A superb assist by St. Pierre led to the next goal. Flick grabbed a loose puck and carried it around the far boards, and dished to St. Pierre, who was open in the slot. St. Pierre faked a shot and slid the puck to his left, where Beach was open and fired home his fourth of the season, and his third in two games.
The last goal was all Jeremy Morin. As Lake Erie was just getting the puck into the Rockford zone, Morin stole it at the boards and fed it up to Kruger, who raced into Lake Erie territory. Kruger fired the puck low at the net, which was blocked away to the far side. Morin kept his speed up and raced to the front of the net to reach for the puck. Pickard attempted to poke-check the puck away, but Morin left his feet to dive at the puck. Just as he was landing, Morin got ahold of the puck and slipped it into the back of the net for a highlight reel goal.
Rockford’s 17 third-period shots doubled the output of their first two periods, while holding Lake Erie to 11 total shots in the final two periods as the IceHogs were back to their winning ways, defeating Lake Erie 6-3.
Keys for the week
1. Playing from behind. Saturday, Rockford managed to rally from a 3-1 deficit, but Friday, Rockford was unable to rally from being behind 4-1. Preventing the early goals is a key to keeping Rockford in the game.
2. Face-off draws. As I mentioned earlier, Rockford was winning some key face-offs, which led to some goals and scoring opportunities. This was evident in both goals, but more so in the Lake Erie game.
3. Penalty minutes. Before the Lake Erie game, Rockford was the second-most penalized team in the league. Although the penalty kill has been fairly solid for Rockford, the team obviously needs to show more discipline and keep themselves out of the box.
Rockford returns to Grand Rapids for a matchup against the Griffins Friday, Nov. 9. In Rockford’s last game in Grand Rapids back on Oct. 27, Rockford came from behind for a 6-5 overtime win. The ’Hogs return to the BMO Harris Bank Center the following night, Saturday, Nov. 10, for a 7:05 p.m. game against the Milwaukee Admirals in their first meeting of the season. Rockford will stay at home Wednesday, Nov. 14, and host the Peoria Rivermen for the first time in the 2012-2013 season.
From the Nov. 7-13, 2012, issue