By Todd Reicher
The IceHogs were unable to gain any ground this week, going 1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents the Grand Rapids Griffins and the San Antonio Rampage.
For the first few seasons, Rockford held court in the series against the Griffins, but in the last two seasons, the Griffins have come out ahead in 67 percent of those games.
The Friday, Nov. 15, game in Grand Rapids against the Griffins proved to be no different, as the Griffins handled Rockford easily with a 5-3 victory.
Tomas Jurco was the thorn in Rockford’s side this game, scoring three goals, with two of them in the crucial third period.
The game was close after two periods, with the Griffins clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Jurco was the first to light the lamp at 2:22 of the opening frame.
Jeremy Morin, recently sent back down from the Chicago Blackhawks, scored 7 minutes later to even things up at 1-1.
Despite both teams registering eight shots on goal in the middle frame, it was the Griffins who carried the lead into the third period. Another IceHogs thorn, Teemu Pulkkinen, scored the lone second-period goal.
The flood gates opened in the final 20 minutes, with a total of five goals on 25 shots. Unfortunately, three of those goals came in favor of the Griffins, with the aforementioned Jurco scoring at 10:02 on the power play and at 15:59.
Oddly enough, on two occasions when Grand Rapids scored, Rockford would score exactly 18 seconds later. The first time by Alex Broadhurst, and the second by Joakim Nordstrom.
The IceHogs’ PK woes continued, as the Griffins lit up Rockford for two goals on four chances with Rockford coming up empty on both of their chances.
Another interesting note was the absence of Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen from the Rockford line-up. The IceHogs announced via a press release that both players were traded to the Florida Panthers and their AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage for ex-IceHogs and Blackhawks skater Kris Versteeg and forward Phillippe Lefebrve. Lefebrve will report to the ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye. Hayes wound up starting on the fourth line for the Florida Panthers Saturday, Nov. 16.
Speaking of the Rampage, it was an unlikely coincidence that Rockford would face them Saturday night, Nov. 16, at the BMO in Rockford.
Rockford managed to get on the board first with a shorthanded goal by Terry Broadhurst, the first shorthanded tally of the year for the ’Hogs. Broadhurst carried the puck in transition into the offensive zone, where two Rampage players held the middle of the ice. Broadhurst made a nifty fake left, then carried right and turned around the defense enough to get off a quick shot to the far side corner, which beat Rampage netminder Dov Grummet-Morris.
Morin scored his second goal in as many nights late in the first on Rockford’s first power-play opportunity to double the lead. Adam Clendening fired a shot from the right blue line, which Morin, who was stationed about midway between the net and Clendening, redirected enough to fool Grummet- Morris and fall into the back of the net.
With time winding down in the first, Vincent Trocheck tallied his team-leading seventh goal of the campaign. The redirected goal cut the Rockford lead to 2-1.
Trocheck scored his second marker of the game only 42 seconds into the second period to even the score at 2-2. Antti Raanta misplayed the puck, which trickled right through his five-hole.
The game remained tied until 6:19 of the third, courtesy of Brad Winchester on another redirected goal. Bobby Shea, getting his second assist for the night, let loose a shot from the left point, which Winchester redirected into the twine, allowing Rockford to reclaim the lead once again.
Rockford would not relinquish control of the game again, and an empty-net goal by Klas Dahlbeck, unassisted, would secure a 4-2 victory for the IceHogs.
Sunday morning, Nov. 17, it was announced Raanta was recalled to the Blackhawks, presumably because of the injury of Chicago backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
Other transactions for the week include Joe Gleason being sent to the ECHL, Blake Kessel signing a Professional Try-Out (PTO) contract, and Morin being returned to Rockford along with Brad Mills.
Keys for the week
With the loss of a few upper-echelon players in Hayes and Olsen, the IceHogs managed to put some points on the board and steady up the back end, at least on Saturday.
Only two games this week should give Rockford some deserved rest for the upcoming trip to the East.
PK continues to be a problem for Rockford, but it is hoped Mills will be able to pump some life into the seemingly deceased shorthanded unit.
Rockford will play three games both this week and next week, with three at home and three on the road. The first game takes place Wednesday, Nov. 20, against the Abbotsford Heat. The ’Hogs then travel down to Charlotte, N.C., for a weekend series against the Checkers.
The following week, Rockford will host Milwaukee Wednesday, Nov. 27, then wrap up the month of November with a home-and-home series against the Chicago Wolves Nov. 29 and 30, with the latter being the home game for Rockford.
From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue