By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs continued their winning ways in week 20, scoring three wins to run their current streak to five straight victories.
Rockford’s first game of week 20 took place Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Carver Arena in Peoria.
It didn’t take the ’Hogs long to find the back of the net as rookie Terry Broadhurst tallied his third marker of the season with 48 seconds expired in the game. Klas Dahlbeck blasted a shot from the left blue line, and Broadhurst was on the doorstep of the goal crease to tip in the puck for the early lead. Defenseman Joe Lavin also assisted on the goal.
Things remained quiet until Jeremy Morin tallied a powerplay marker at 9:20 of the second period to double Rockford’s lead. As Rockford began their second powerplay of the evening, Brad Mills won the ensuing offensive zone face-off back to Shawn Lalonde on the near blue line. Lalonde immediately cycled the puck to Morin on his left, who ripped a one-timer past Mike McKenna for the 2-0 lead just 4 seconds into the powerplay.
The second period ended with Rockford up 2-0, despite being outshot 22-13 after two periods, including more than 1:30 of five-on-three shorthanded time.
With time winding down in the game, Martin St. Pierre found the empty net with 1:23 left in the game for his 18th goal of the season.
With McKenna back in net, Rockford won the next face-off and moved into the offensive zone, where Kendall McArdle found a Brandon Pirri rebound and slapped it into the back of the net for a 4-0 lead late in the game.
Carter Hutton stood tall late in the game, and stopped all 35 shots he faced, en route to earning his second shutout of the season.
Friday, Feb. 22, Rockford came back home to host the Grand Rapids Griffins in their final meeting of the season. In their last meeting, a bench-clearing brawl was the highlight of the game, as the Griffins routed the ’Hogs 11-6 back on Jan. 19.
Griffins forward Tomas Jurco was the recipient of a gift from Hutton, putting Grand Rapids up 1-0 2:22 into the game. Hutton started to skate behind the net to place the puck into position for his defense, but mishandled the puck on his way. Jurco alertly skated toward the net and grabbed the puck off the post and pushed it into the back of the net.
Jimmy Hayes scored Rockford’s first goal of the game at 7:47 with an acrobatic shot for his 17th of the season. St. Pierre put a shot on the net, which was blocked out by Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek, but toward Hayes who was moving away from the net. As Hayes was falling backward, he slapped the puck at the net, which beat Mrazek to even the score at 1-1.
The IceHogs took their first lead of the game with 50 seconds remaining in the first period with a five-hole goal by Mathieu Beaudoin, tallying his fourth goal of the season, but his first as a Rockford IceHogs skater. Brandon Svendsen took possession of the puck off a turnover at mid ice and fed Beaudoin off his right side. The Griffins’ defense gave him just a little too much room, as Beaudoin fired a fast wrister that beat Mrazek between his legs for the 2-1 lead going into the second period.
Francis Pare pulled the game to even early in the second period off a cross-ice pass from Riley Sheahan, which beat Hutton over his right shoulder.
Grand Rapids’ lead only lasted 24 seconds, thanks to Hayes scoring his second goal of the game. Morin fired a shot from the right boards, which was blocked out to the middle of the ice. Hayes was skating hard to the net, and the rebound came right to his stick for an easy goal and a 3-2 lead.
With 12 seconds left in the second, Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan fired the puck over the glass and was sent off for a delay of game penalty, putting the ’Hogs on a late power play.
Rockford’s Mills won the ensuing powerplay, and found Kyle Beach up the left side of the ice, who quickly put the puck on the net. Pirri was waiting at the door and attempted to shove the puck into the net. At first, the shot appeared to be blocked, but the puck made it past the goal line as time expired in the second. The on-ice call was a goal, but referee Pierre Lambert skated back to the review area for a review of the goal. After review, it was determined the puck crossed the line with .1 seconds left in the period, and Rockford was awarded a last-second goal for a big, momentum-changing 4-2 lead.
Pare pulled Grand Rapids to within one goal with his second marker of the game 2 minutes after the midway point of the third period. Hutton let out a big rebound, and Pare was there to slip the puck behind Hutton.
With just more than 2 minutes left in the game, Grand Rapids was tagged with a bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice. The IceHogs were unable to score on the powerplay, but more importantly held the Griffins off the board, as they skated away with a 4-3 win.
After a day off, Rockford headed to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont to face the second-place Chicago Wolves Sunday, Feb. 24.
In the midst of a penalty-ridden first period, Mills was rewarded for his hard work with his first goal of the season. Adam Clendening had a shot stopped by Wolves netminder Matt Climie, but Mills was there to clean up the rebound for the 1-0 lead.
Rockford extended that lead to 2-0 with another late-period goal, this time by St. Pierre. While on the powerplay, Hayes had a shot deflected right to St. Pierre, who made good on his 19th goal of the season.
Sunday’s scoring remained silent until late in the third period. Henrik Karlsson, who recently returned from his call-up to the Chicago Blackhawks, stopped all 23 shots he faced up until the last minute of the game. Ben Smith, who was playing in his second game since returning from a month-long injury, was called for hooking with 43 seconds left in the game. Wolves captain Darren Haydar scored the lone Chicago goal with 29 seconds left to deny Karlsson’s shutout bid and pull Chicago to within one.
Rockford once again stood tall in the waning seconds of the game, and held on for a 2-1 win, giving the team their season-best fifth-straight win.
Rockford plays two straight home games against divisional opponents in week 21. The first game Friday, March 1, has the Rivermen in town with a 7:05 p.m. start time. The following night, the Milwaukee Admirals come into town for a 7:05 p.m. game at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
From the Feb. 27-March 5, 2013, issue