By Todd Reicher
In their second, and final, road trip to North Carolina this year, the Rockford IceHogs came home with 3 out of a possible 4 points.
Kyle Beach continued where he left off, scoring the first goal of the game, unassisted, 1:41 into the contest.
Mark McNeill tallied his team-leading eighth goal of the season to increase the Rockford lead to 2-0 less than halfway through the first period.
Zach Boychuk, Brett Sutter and Chris Terry all factored into the next two Charlotte goals, which would knot the score at 2-2 early in the third. Coincidentally, both goals were tallied the same on the score sheet with Boychuk getting the goal and Sutter with the primary assist and Terry with the secondary helper.
The second period belonged to Rockford, although the team did not manage to crack the scoreboard. Rockford lit up Charlotte for 19 shots on goal compared to a paltry two for Charlotte, but John Muse stopped all shots he faced, keeping the game close at 2-1 after 40 minutes.
It was just the opposite in the third, with Charlotte holding Rockford to only two shots on goal while firing nine of their own. One of the first shots of the third was the game-tying goal.
After three periods ended with a tie, we headed to overtime, where Brody Sutter netted the game-winner 2:31 into the extra session to give Charlotte the loss.
Kent Simpson was handed his seventh loss of the season, while Muse improved to 6-6.
Friday, Dec. 6, it was announced that Beach was traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for tough guy Brandon Mashinter. Also, down for a condition assignment from the Chicago Blackhawks was Mike Kostka, who on Sunday, Dec. 8, was returned back to Chicago. Kostka notched one assist and a plus-3 in the two games he played while rehabbing.
Saturday, Dec. 7, Rockford would tally the first goal again, with Garret Ross scoring his fifth of the campaign. A great cross-crease pass by Joakim Nordstorm allowed Ross to one-time the puck into the net.
Brendan Woods made the teddy bears rain down with an unassisted goal at 15:47 to draw the Checkers even on Charlotte’s Teddy Bear Toss night. Woods made an excellent defensive play to strip the puck in the defensive zone, then hustled up the left boards to get behind the Rockford defense.
Rockford fired off three second-period goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead before Mark Flood scored a power-play marker with 1 second left to close the gap to 4-2.
The first ’Hogs’ goal of the second was a power-play marker by Brad Winchester on a backdoor goal. Nordstrom, recently returned from the Blackhawks, scored his sixth of the season at 9:12 from a nice series of passes from Brandon Pirri and Adam Clendening, followed by a second Ross goal at 16:30.
After the second Ross goal, tempers rose and 42 penalty minutes were dished out. McNeill was given a 10-minute misconduct for secondary altercation along with Rasmus Rissanen for Charlotte.
While watching the game and seeing the late second-period goal, I thought the momentum would change hands. Good thing I was wrong.
Although Charlotte once again held Rockford to single-digit shots-on-goal in the third with four, the Checkers were unable to crack Simpson until 9 seconds remained in the game. Six seconds prior, Klas Dahlbeck tallied an empty-net goal from almost the full length of the ice, so the final goal by Charlotte was nothing but a stat pad.
Rockford played a solid game Saturday with all lines and players contributing offensively, which included 10 players getting on the score sheet. Four players had multi-point games with Ross leading the way with two goals and a plus-2 while Nordstorm had a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-4. Pirri and Dahlbeck were the other two players with 2 points.
Keys for the week
Rockford kept themselves on pace with the pack by bringing home three out of four. Teams that will be playoff contenders are becoming more evident, as we are almost one-third of the way through the season, and Rockford is towards the bottom of that group. At this time, Rockford still has a very good chance at making the playoffs.
Same old story — penalty kill victimized, with Charlotte converting on three of the seven attempts in the two games. The good news is that Rockford didn’t give up many shorthanded opportunities.
Rockford returns home Friday, Dec. 13, to start a two-game-in-two-days home series against the Oklahoma City Barons. Both games take place at 7 p.m. at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The IceHogs then travel to Iowa to face the Wild Sunday, Dec. 15, for a 4:05 p.m. match-up.
Posted Dec. 10, 2013