By Todd Reicher
The week started out promising for the Rockford IceHogs with a win against the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies in convincing fashion. However, two key losses against the Milwaukee Admirals and Oklahoma City Barons put a dent in Rockford’s playoff hopes.
Rockford’s first game of the week took place Wednesday, March 27, against the Toronto Marlies to start their four-game home stand.
Although the IceHogs outshot the Marlies 10-8, Toronto led after 20 minutes, 1-0. The Toronto defense was clogging up shooting lanes, stacking the defensive blueline and keeping Rockford outside, which stymied the ’Hogs’ offense.
However, after some changes in the intermission, Rockford hit the net 4:36 into the second frame with a powerplay goal from Jeremy Morin. Shawn Lalonde started the play in the Rockford zone and passed to Morin, who carried the puck into the zone. Morin found Brandon Pirri, who took the puck closer to the net, then fed it back to Morin, who launched a one-timer past Drew MacIntyre to knot the game at 1-1.
Morin would strike again with a shorthanded goal late in the second to give Rockford their first lead of the game, and his team-leading 27th goal of the season. After Morin grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone, he raced into the offensive zone with a two-on-one rush. Morin slowed and held the puck to wait for his trailing teammate. As a defenseman for Toronto went down on the ice to block a pass, Morin quickly wristed a shot to the back of the net for an unassisted goal.
The ’Hogs kept the scoring rolling with Steve Montador slapping a one-timer into the top left corner of the net for his second of the year at 4:06 of the final frame.
Toronto pulled MacIntyre in the waning moments of the third period, but Brad Mills, assisted by Rostislav Olesz and Pirri, put the puck into an empty net, sealing a 4-1 win for Rockford.
A few days after Wednesday’s game, Morin was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. On his first shift of the game, Morin tallied his first goal of the season for the ’Hawks, putting them up 1-0.
Compared to Wednesday’s game against Toronto, Rockford seemed a step behind on Friday against the Milwaukee Admirals, until late.
Milwaukee went up 3-0 midway through the third period with two goals coming 13 seconds apart, albeit in two different periods.
Ryan Ellis scored for the Ads with 2 seconds remaining in the first period. It appeared the defense let Ellis skate his way in, and a quick snap shot beat Carter Hutton and put Milwaukee up 1-0.
Only 11 seconds into the second period, Milwaukee doubled their lead with a goal from Brad Winchester.
That lead was extended to 3-0 at 12:31 of the second period with Milwaukee’s first powerplay goal against Rockford in their last 12 attempts.
It wasn’t until Brandon Svendsen tallied late in the second at 17:59 that the ’Hogs put a score on the board.
Rockford looked to earn their 10th come-from-behind win of the season when Martin St. Pierre scored at 9:14 of the third period to close the gap to 3-2.
Despite putting 18 shots on net in the third period, only one found the back of the net, as Milwaukee skated away with a 3-2 win, putting them ahead of Rockford in the standings for the eighth — and final — playoff spot.
The ’Hogs’ playoff hopes took another hit the following night when the Oklahoma City Barons lit up Rockford to the tune of 7-3. Center Anton Lander had a career night, factoring in on six of the seven goals with three goals and three assists.
It looked like Rockford was going to run away with the game in the first period as the ’Hogs went up 2-0 just more than halfway through the opening period on goals by Svendsen and Mills.
Olesz set up Svendsen’s goal with a pass from behind the Barons’ net to put Rockford up 1-0.
Byron Froese assisted on Mills’ goal as he knocked down a rebound, allowing Mills to pick up the puck for his fifth goal of the campaign.
From then on, it was all Oklahoma City. Lander tallied his first of three goals late in the second to cut Rockford’s lead to 2-1 after the first period.
A five-goal second period buried the ’Hogs with a bulk of the Barons’ tallies coming in the second half of the second period, including a powerplay tally with 9 seconds remaining in the period.
The Barons’ lead was increased to 7-2 when Lander completed his hat trick at 9:55 of the third period while on the power play.
Lalonde tallied for Rockford at 16:29 of the third, but by then, the game was already over, and the Barons left Rockford for the final time this season with a convincing 7-3 win.
Even through the Barons only put three shots on net in the third, Oklahoma City still outshot Rockford 34-27.
As the season winds down, Rockford’s schedule heats up with four games slated, including three games in 48 hours. The first game took place Tuesday, April 2 (results unavailable at press time) against the Milwaukee Admirals. Both teams square off again Friday, April 5, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. Rockford then heads down to Peoria Saturday, April 6, for the first of three-straight games against the Rivermen. Sunday, April 7, both teams head back to Rockford for a 5:05 p.m. meeting at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
From the April 3-9, 2013, issue