By Todd Reicher
The IceHogs briefly held a record over the .500 mark for one day as the IceHogs split a road series against the Lake Erie Monsters. As mentioned in my last column, Rockford held court against the Ohio team last season, winning all four games. The streak was taken to five games with a win Friday night (Oct. 11), but the Monsters stole the second game of the series, breaking the streak at five with a convincing 5-1 win.
Friday night’s game was a different story, however, with Rockford taking a commanding 5-0 lead before finishing up with a 5-2 win.
Adam Clendening scored with a blast from the right blue line for the first tally of the game, just 88 seconds into the contest. The Monsters were unable to clear the puck from their zone, and Alex Broadhurst, from a feed from Brandon Pirri, found Clendening at the blue line.
Brad Mills struck for his first goal of the season just under 3 minutes later to double Rockford’s lead. Broadhurst grabbed the puck at the blue line, then fed Pirri, who was stationed in the bottom left corner. Pirri made a nifty pass across ice to Mills, who was streaking in from the right wing, and slapped a one-timer to the back of the net.
Rockford wasn’t done yet, and at 7:48 of the same period, Drew LeBlanc scored his first professional goal to give Rockford a commanding 3-0 lead. Jeremy Morin started the play off with a shot on the net. Newly acquired forward Brad Winchester was on the doorstep and fired another quick shot, which was blocked away by Monsters backstopper Calvin Pickard. The puck dribbled out to the slot, where LeBlanc raced in and made a diving poke at the puck to get it into the back of the net.
As the second period was winding down, Rockford took advantage of a power-play opportunity and increased their lead to 4-0. The play started with Mark McNeill working hard and poking the puck off the right boards back to Dylan Olsen on the right blue line. Olsen slid the puck to his defensive partner, Viktor Svedberg, who had an open lane in front of him. Svedberg put his huge 6-foot-8 frame behind the shot, and blasted the puck into the top left corner of the twine.
Once again, Rockford followed suit with another goal 2 minutes later. Morin and Olsen earned their second points of the night, as both factored into the assist for LeBlanc’s second goal of the night. LeBlanc received the puck at the middle of the slot, and skated to his left, before shooting low and to the right side to give Rockford a huge 5-0 lead.
Lake Erie tried to make a game of it, scoring at 2:02 and 4:32 of the final frame to spoil Antti Raanta’s shutout, but by then, the game was over, as Rockford held on to a 5-2 road win.
The tables were turned the following night, as Lake Erie stopped the ’Hogs’ two-game win streak with a 5-1 win. Similar to Rockford the previous night, the Monsters tallied four goals before Rockford was able to solve Sami Aittokallio.
Karl Stollery scored 3:17 into the game to put Lake Erie ahead 1-0, and Andrew Agozzino scored at 12:12 on a power play to put Lake Erie ahead 2-0 after 20 minutes of hockey.
At 3:55 of the second, J.T. Wyman notched his first of the season, and Mark Olver tallied a second Monsters power-play goal at 14:33 to put the home team up 4-0.
It wasn’t until Mills tallied his second goal of the season at 3:18 of the first period, while on one of Rockford’s five power-play chances, that Rockford got onto the board.
A strategic play by Head Coach Ted Dent turned sour when he pulled Raanta very early in the third period (with more than 6 minutes remaining in the contest) as the Monsters scored a shorthanded goal. Rockford had a late power play, thanks to a Wyman holding penalty, and Dent sent out six attackers to try to get the game to 4-2. But team captain Bryan Lerg found the empty net, and sealed the Monsters’ 5-1 win.
Keys for the week
Special teams played a big role in both games this weekend, with Friday being the better of the two games. In Friday’s game, Rockford held the Monsters to 0-for-4 with the extra skater, as the ’Hogs’ power-play team finished 1-for-5 with an extra skater. On the flip side, Rockford gave up seven shorthanded chances, with the Monsters capitalizing on two of them. In conjunction, Lake Erie scored a shorthanded tally late in the third. Once again, Rockford was 1-for-5 on the power play.
Shots-on-goal were lower than the previous week, with Saturday’s contest eclipsing Friday’s shot total, 36-22. In three of four games this season, Rockford has been outshot.
Rockford had five multi-point players in Friday’s contest: Broadhurst, LeBlanc, Morin, Olsen and Pirri.
The IceHogs will hit Chicago for the first time this season Friday, Oct. 18, before heading home Saturday, Oct. 19, for their home-opener against the Grand Rapids Griffins. As of Monday, Oct. 14, Chicago holds a 2-2 record, same as Rockford, while the Griffins are a point ahead with a 2-0-1 record.
From the Oct. 16-22, 2013, issue