By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs didn’t gain any ground this week, but they didn’t hurt themselves, either, finishing Week 11 2-1.
Rockford started the week by beating the Milwaukee Admirals Wednesday, Dec. 19, by the score of 3-1. All scoring took place in the first period with Brandon Pirri, Andrew Shaw and Jeremy Morin tallying goals for the ’Hogs and Juuso Puustinen scoring the lone Admirals goal.
A rematch two days later was won by the Ads, 2-1. Milwaukee struck again early with a goal 2:29 into the game, and Brandon Bollig knotted the game with a powerplay goal at 9:33 of the opening frame.
It wasn’t until 9:50 into the third period that Taylor Beck scored on a fluke goal (that deflected off the stick of Rockford’s Wade Brookbank) to put Milwaukee up for good, 2-1.
The IceHogs’ third, and final, game of the week took place on friendly ice at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday, Dec. 22, with Rockford hosting the Abbotsford Heat for the first of two home games against the British Columbia opponent.
At the start of the season, the Heat were the hottest team in the league, going 13-2-2-2 in 19 games, but had recently stumbled in their last 10 games with a 2-6-1-1 record.
The Heat also employ the top two goaltenders in the league with Barry Brust and Danny Taylor, respectively. Rockford would draw Taylor for the game, who held a goals against average (GAA) under 2.0 and a save percentage over 0.920, along with two shutouts. He would go up against Carter Hutton, who was getting his third start of the week for Rockford.
Early going, it looked like the Heat were going to drive Hutton to the bench, with Krys Kolanos scoring two goals in the first period before Ben Smith sniped a shot from the right face-off circle over Taylor’s shoulder to pull Rockford to within a goal after 20 minutes. To both goalies’ credit, all three goals in the first period were snipe shots in the top corners, which are some of the hardest shots to stop as a goaltender.
After a scoreless second period, Rockford would score two third-period goals to take a 3-2 lead late into the final frame. Nick Leddy showed his speed and moves, scoring the game-tying goal at 7:33 into the third. Pirri sniped a shot at 12:09 to put Rockford ahead for the first time in the game.
Rockford was awarded a late power play with 1:56 left in the game, but could not score an empty-net goal to seal the game, but still came away with a 3-2 victory.
The Heat held Rockford’s power play to 0-for-5 on the night. Coming into the game, Rockford’s powerplay squad was third in the league.
Keys for the week
1. Grinding out tough games — Although Rockford lost a tight game Friday, the ’Hogs grinded out two tough wins against some strong defensive teams.
2. Playing a full 60 minutes — Rockford has been better lately about playing a full 60 minutes, which is something they had trouble with earlier in the season, especially in the second period. The team did have a rough second period in one of the Milwaukee games, but the other two games showed a marked improvement over their efforts earlier this season.
Rockford plays three games in Week 12, with two games at home. The first game was against the Chicago Wolves Thursday, Dec. 27. Milwaukee came to town two days later, Dec. 29. The ’Hogs ended the year Monday, Dec. 31, in Grand Rapids against the first-place Griffins. Results of those games were not available at press time.
From the Jan. 2-8, 2013, issue