By Todd Reicher
It has been almost one year since the last bench-clearing brawl for the Rockford IceHogs, but that all changed Saturday, Jan. 19, when the IceHogs hosted the Grand Rapids Griffins.
In the seventh of eight meetings this season between the two clubs, a total of 13 players were ejected and the Griffins ran up the score on Rockford, tallying 11 goals while allowing six in an 11-6 trouncing. Two of the players ejected were starting goaltenders Carter Hutton and 2013 AHL All-Star selection Petr Mrazek.
So, what transpired that led to a game that showed a total of 230 penalty minutes, 17 goals (two of them shorthanded) and 13 player ejections? Most likely it was tempers rising after previous meetings between these two clubs, including a game a few weeks ago in which an altercation between Andrew Shaw and Riley Sheahan led to a large number of penalty minutes for both squads.
After Grand Rapids scored its sixth goal, which was around the 12-minute mark of the second period, Kyle Beach had enough and went after Sheahan immediately after the ensuing faceoff, in turn starting the brawl.
Doing my job as a photographer, I started firing shots immediately at Beach and Sheahan, who were in the middle of the ice. Suddenly, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw Hutton racing across the middle of ice to go after Mrazek. I quickly panned over to capture the fracas taking place behind the Griffins’ net as Hutton layed the wood to Mrazek. As I looked to the left once again, Beach started getting the upper hand on Sheahan, so I panned back over to shoot more of their contest. That’s when I noticed in the background players from the Griffins’ bench pouring onto the ice. From then on, it was an all-out brawl with both benches nearly empty, with the coaches from both teams and Alec Richards sitting on the half wall the only exceptions.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to tell what caused everyone to flood the ice, but after watching a few replays of the incident on YouTube, it appeared that while Beach and Sheahan were fighting, another scuffle broke out in the far corner by the Griffins’ net. This is what caused Hutton to skate over, creating a six-on-six fight. What I believe caused the gates to flood was Beach continuing to take shots at Sheahan, despite him being down on the ice (as evidenced by the aggressor penalty he received). The aforementioned players in the background of my viewfinder raced directly toward Beach, which also confirms this.
After the smoke cleared, which took roughly 15 minutes, play actually resumed without an extended break in the action (which is what happened in Milwaukee last year), but by this time, Grand Rapids had the upper hand.
Backup goalies Richards and Thomas McCollum headed onto the ice, and it appeared Rockford was going to have the advantage, as Jimmy Hayes tallied a shorthanded goal 1:08 after play resumed.
But on that same power play, Grand Rapids scored to bring their lead to 7-4. Another strike by the Griffins in the second period took the score to a staggering 8-4 after only 40 minutes of hockey.
Once again, it looked like Rockford was poised for a comeback. Ben Youds and Brandon Pirri scored in the first 4 minutes of the final period to bring the game to 8-6 with 15 minutes left to play. With the way the game had gone so far, it certainly wasn’t out of reach for the ’Hogs to stage a miraculous comeback.
But having a short bench hurt Rockford, and the Griffins scored three unanswered third-period goals and put Rockford away 11-6 in a game that had so many twists and turns it paralleled an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
Listening to some of the post-game show by Mike Peck, it seemed the referees lost control of the game early, which allowed the players to attempt to take more liberties during the course of the game.
But all of this bench-clearing brawling doesn’t overshadow the fact that Rockford continues to play undisciplined hockey, as evident here. Once again, the ’Hogs gave up a great number of penalties this game, a total of seven power plays for the Griffins, which they converted into four goals. Sure, even if the Griffins didn’t convert on any of those, they still would have had a one-goal win, but you just can’t give up that many opportunities in a game.
On the other hand, Rockford was two-for-three on the man advantage and increased their percentage on the season.
Rewind back to Friday, Jan. 11, when Rockford easily handled these same Grand Rapids Griffins 5-2 in what would start a three-game winning streak culminating in a 3-1 victory over the Peoria Rivermen Friday, Jan. 18. Sandwiched in between those games was a 2-1 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Admirals.
Granted, Rockford gave up five power plays to the Rivermen, but they managed to stop all five attempts and played a tight defensive game, keeping Peoria’s shots to the outside for most of the night.
So, where do we go from here? Well, Hutton will probably be suspended for crossing the center line (this is supported by the fact that the IceHogs called up goaltender Kent Simpson from the ECHL Sunday, Jan. 20) and Beach will probably be suspended for receiving a game misconduct penalty for aggressor. According to the NHL rule 46.2 Aggressor: “A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct. A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation will have this recorded as an aggressor of an altercation for statistical and suspension purposes.”
With that, in conjunction with his suspension history, it is safe to say Beach will be out for at least six games, if not more. It’s hard to say what will happen with the other players on both sides, but interestingly enough, only Rob Flick was given a game misconduct for leaving the bench when it appeared that Grand Rapids players were the first to leave the bench. I’m sure the AHL will review and change some of the suspensions, but it’s hard to say when that will happen.
Rockford has three more home games coming up, which will all take place in Week 16. The first home game is Rockford’s only early Monday game, which took place Monday, Jan. 21, against the Texas Stars (results unavailable at press time). The final two games of the home stand take place Friday, Jan. 25, against the Chicago Wolves and Saturday, Jan. 26, against the Oklahoma City Barons.
From the Jan. 23-29, 2013, issue