By Todd Reicher
For the first half of the season, the Rockford IceHogs were at the top of the league in scoring and third-period goals, but the second half of the season has become a different story.
Of the four goals scored against Rockford in the two games in week 17, three of them were scored in the third period.
Of these three third-period goals, the first was scored Friday, Feb. 1, while visiting the San Antonio Rampage. In fact, it was the only goal scored that game as Rockford was shut out by Jacob Markstrom, who put together a fabulous 30-save performance for the Rampage.
On the other end of the ice was one of Rockford’s newest additions in 6-foot-6-inch Swiss netminder Henrik Karlsson, who was getting his first start in an IceHogs sweater. Through the first two periods, Karlsson and Markstrom, also a Swiss-born netminder who stands 6 feet 6 inches, stopped shot after shot with Markstrom stopping 13 and Karlsson stopping 14.
It wasn’t until midway through the third that a redirected shot would skip by Karlsson, giving San Antonio a 1-0 lead.
Rockford would put pressure on Markstrom, throwing 17 shots at him in the third period, but Markstrom stood tall and was awarded his third shutout of the season.
After a day off, Rockford traveled to Houston to take on the Aeros in an early noon matchup.
All looked well early for the ’Hogs with Jimmy Hayes scoring the first goal of the game just 5 minutes into the contest, while Rockford was on their first powerplay.
Rockford added to their lead with 2:15 left in the opening frame when Kyle Beach tallied his 10th goal of the season.
When it seemed Rockford would head to the locker room with a two-goal cushion, Kyle Medvec scored his third goal of the season with 21 seconds left in the opening period to give Houston some momentum going into the middle frame.
However, both teams were unable to put any pucks in the net, and Rockford remained up 2-1 after 40 minutes of hockey.
One area where the ’Hogs have really stood tall this year is third-period scoring. On at least two occasions this year, Rockford has scored four third-period tallies, and was toward the top of the league in goals scored in the final frame throughout the first half of the season. This time, it was Houston lighting the lamp in the third, with their two third-period goals scored in under 1 minute.
The first of two goals was scored by Brett Bulmer off a good snipe into the top right corner, beating Carter Hutton. Bulmer carried the puck into the offensive zone with only slight pressure applied by the Rockford defense. The cushion given to Bulmer allowed him to rip off a quick wrister from the right boards, which surprised Hutton, tying the game up at 2-2.
Exactly 58 seconds later, David McIntyre gave Houston their first — and only — lead of the game with a similar play, but this time from the left side of the ice. Same scenario, McIntyre was given a little room to work with and shot a puck at the right blocker of Hutton. The puck was partially blocked by Hutton, but it had enough force to carry off the blocker and into the back of the net.
Despite Rockford pulling Hutton late, and outshooting Houston 14-6 in the final 20 minutes, Rockford was unable to get another puck by Houston goaltender Darcy Kuemper, and the ’Hogs were dealt their sixth-straight loss, putting the team deeper in the hole for a playoff spot.
After Rockford’s six-goal effort against Grand Rapids Jan. 19, Rockford has been held to nine goals in five games, while their opponents have scored 16 in those same five contests.
Rockford winds up their road trip with games Tuesday, Feb. 5, against the Texas Stars (results unavailable at press time) and finally Peoria Friday, Feb. 8. The IceHogs return home Saturday, Feb. 9, to host the Houston Aeros.
From the Feb. 6-12, 2013, issue