By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs took 4 of 6 points in week 22, with two come-from-behind wins during their three-game road trip.
Games one and two of the week took place at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City against the Barons.
Despite Rockford doubling up Oklahoma City in shots in the first period with 14 to the Barons’ seven, it was Oklahoma City who would head into the end of the first period with a 1-0 lead. With 3:38 left in the period, Toni Rajala tallied his eighth goal of the season for the only marker.
Rockford once again doubled up the Barons in shots in the second period, 12-6, although this time both teams tallied two goals.
The back-and-forth scoring started with Terry Broadhurst netting his fourth goal of the season 2:47 into the second period to put Rockford on the board. Brandon Svendsen and Martin St. Pierre assisted on the tying goal.
Just after the midway point of the period, Mark Arcobello scored an unassisted shorthanded goal to give the Barons the lead for the second time.
Two minutes later, Ben Smith would pull the ’Hogs even again with his 18th goal of the campaign. Dylan Olsen and Shawn Lalonde were credited with helpers on Smith’s tally.
Not another 2 minutes elapsed before Oklahoma City would reclaim the lead for the third time in the game with defenseman Taylor Fedun scoring his third goal of the year and carrying the Barons into the third period with a 3-2 lead.
Rockford controlled the tempo of the third period, as their defense kept the puck away from ’Hogs netminder Carter Hutton. Although Rockford only amassed 10 shots on goal, they easily outshot the Barons once again, who managed to only put one shot on net in the third. Despite the shot difference, the Barons were still ahead 3-2.
With time winding down in the period, Rockford sent Hutton to the bench in favor of a sixth attacker. With only a few seconds left, Rockford made one last attempt to even the score. Smith put a pass out to Brandon Pirri, who was riding a nine-game point streak and who found Adam Clendening open. Clendening fired a shot that found its way past Niko Hovinen with only 2 seconds remaining in the game as Rockford tied the game once again, but in thrilling fashion.
Both teams only managed one shot on goal in the overtime period, as the game moved to a shootout. Oklahoma City’s Josh Green was stopped on his attempt as the first shooter while Rockford’s Broadhurst scored in the first round to give Rockford a 1-0 lead after the first round.
The next goal wasn’t until the fourth round, courtesy of Arcobello.
Hutton stopped Rajala in the fifth, while Brad Mills connected as the final shooter to give Rockford a thrilling 4-3 shootout win.
The following night, Rockford played the second game of their double-header against the Barons, but game two didn’t start well for the ’Hogs. Oklahoma City tallied three first-period goals on 16 shots against Henrik Karlsson to put the Barons up 3-0 after 20 minutes of hockey.
Rockford got things going in the second period with Jimmy Hayes leading the way 1:16 into the frame with a powerplay goal, the ’Hogs’ first of the game. Hayes steamed into the offensive zone as the only ’Hogs skater and whipped a wrist shot into the back of the net.
Shortly after Rockford put their first point on the board, the Barons retaliated with a goal of their own to reclaim a 3-point lead.
Just more than 2 minutes later, Jeremy Morin capitalized off a turnover forced by Hayes in the Barons’ zone, putting Morin into the 20s with his 20th goal of the season.
Almost 10 minutes later, St. Pierre found a loose puck deep in the offensive zone and found Hayes, who struck again to trim the lead to 4-3 after 40 minutes of hockey.
After a miserable start, Rockford completed the comeback with a goal by Pirri. After he won an offensive zone faceoff, Pirri fed the puck back to Ryan Stanton, who slid it over to his linemate, Clendening, on his left. Clendening fired a shot that caromed right back to Pirri in front of the net, who deposited it for the game-tying goal, and his 18th of the season.
Svendsen gave Rockford their first lead of the game with his first marker of the season 5:09 into the final period. Broadhust grabbed the puck and led a two-on-one with Svendsen at his right. As they crossed into the offensive zone, Broadhurst made a clean pass to Svendsen, who buried the shot and put Rockford up 5-4.
The ’Hogs never looked back and tallied two more goals in the final 7 minutes of the game, which included six unanswered goals, to give Rockford a 7-4 win. Hayes scored the first hat trick of the season for Rockford with an empty-net goal at 19:05 to wrap up a phenomenal 5-point night, the most productive night in his professional career.
The game was an impressive win for Rockford, as prior to this weekend, Rockford had only beaten the Barons once in regulation in 12 attempts.
Sunday, March 10, Rockford played their third game in 48 hours as they traveled to the Allstate Arena to face the Chicago Wolves.
Morin got the scoring going for Rockford with a shorthanded goal at 9:06 of the first frame. The play started with Olsen poke-checking the puck away from the Chicago back end. Morin grabbed the loose puck, hustled into the offensive zone and beat goaltender Joe Cannata for his 22nd tally of the season.
But Chicago’s Michael Davies would score twice in a matter of 46 seconds to give Chicago a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
Stanton tallied his first goal of the season at 2:59 of the second period to pull the game even with a nice setup from winger Kyle Beach.
As the period lengthened, Rockford was controlling the pace, but it was Chicago that would score next. Defenseman Kevin Connauton popped in his fourth goal of the season to put Chicago back up once again.
Despite Rockford outshooting Chicago 27-14 after two periods, it was the Wolves who held the lead on the scoreboard.
In the third period, it looked like Rockford was going to even things up with a goal from Mills. Pirri fed a pass over to Smith, but the puck was caught in his skates, and Smith couldn’t find the partially open net in front of him. Once Smith got control of the puck, he was already past the net, and he tried to bank a shot in off the back of Cannata. The puck bounced back out, and Mills was there, poking furiously at the loose rubber. The play was whistled dead, and the on-ice official did not signal a goal, nor did the red goal light go on, but the play was sent in for review. From the television broadcast angles, it was hard to see if the puck did, indeed, cross the line. The officials and league have been using an overhead camera for reply reviews, which started this season, and after the review commenced, it was determined the puck did not cross the line, to the dismay of the Rockford players and coaches. ’Hogs coach Ted Dent called the officials over and vehemently pled his case, but the officials stuck with their ruling, and Chicago held on to their 3-2 lead.
Rockford was awarded a late powerplay opportunity and pulled Hutton to give Rockford a six-on-four advantage. Unlike the other night in Oklahoma City, no last-second heroics occurred, and Chicago held on for a hard-fought 3-2 win over Rockford.
The loss put Rockford 6 points behind Chicago in the divisional standings, but Rockford is still in playoff contention and sits only 4 points out of a playoff spot with 17 games left in the season.
Rockford has another three games in 48 hours in week 23, all key divisional matchups, including two straight home games. The first game takes place Friday, March 15, against the Chicago Wolves at the BMO. The following night, the Peoria Rivermen skate into town for their ninth meeting of the season.
The ’Hogs then travel back to the Allstate Arena for another Sunday afternoon road game against the Chicago Wolves. Sunday’s game will be the 11th meeting between these two teams this season, with the final meeting taking place in Rockford for their last home game of the season Friday, April 12.
From the March 13-19, 2013, issue