By Todd Reicher
Coming in to week 15, the Rockford IceHogs had not won a game in their last seven outings, but that all changed with the Lake Erie Monsters in town for a weekend series.
In the past few seasons, Rockford has fared well against the Monsters, even sweeping the four-game season series 4-0 last year. This year, the Monsters have been playing a bit better, and the teams have split their two games this season.
The first game of the weekend series took place Friday night, Jan. 10, despite the treacherous road conditions as a result of the mix of rain and freezing temperatures.
With time expiring in the first, Terry Broadhurst broke a scoreless tie with his eighth goal of the season. His younger brother of five years, Alex Broadhurst, was the lone assist on the goal.
Rockford looked to go into the first period with a 1-0 lead, but with 2 seconds remaining, Brett Clark scored the tying goal, only 15 seconds after the ’Hogs took the lead.
The second period continued the back-and-forth scoring, with both teams exchanging goals as they did in the first, although not so close together.
Jeremy Morin notched his eighth marker of the season with Terry Broadhurst getting his second point of the game with the primary assist.
Matt Hunwick pulled the game with 13:42 expired in the second frame to bring the game back to a tie for the second time.
On the second, and final, power-play attempt of the evening, Rockford’s Drew LeBlanc converted with his sixth tally of the season to once again give Rockford the edge.
The trend of exchanging goals followed the curve once again, as Guillaume Desbiens converted with 5:37 remaining in the game for the fourth time.
With 2:23 remaining, Garret Ross deposited his 10th goal of the season to break the stalemate once and for all.
This lead would not be relinquished, and Rockford pulled out a 4-3 win.
The following night, both teams reconvened for the second game of the weekend series, but this time, Rockford dominated the Ohio-based Monsters by putting up six goals.
Similar to the previous night, the first period was played fairly tight, but Rockford managed to get on the board. Brandon Mashinter scored his first goal as an IceHogs skater with a deflection past Sami Aittokallio.
The fireworks started in the second period with the ’Hogs tallying two more goals, before Lake Erie finally got on the scoreboard.
Morin tallied the first second-period goal for Rockford, doubling their lead to 2-0. The snipe was one of two Rockford goals in which Klas Dahlbeck did not have an assist.
Another first on the night was Brett Skinner getting his first goal as a member of the IceHogs. The power-play goal, a blast from the point, was Skinner’s first of the year. Skinner almost had his first of the year in the first period on Mashinter’s goal. The goal was originally credited to Skinner, however, upon review, the puck deflected off Mashinter, rewarding the goal to him.
The Monsters closed the gap to 3-1 just under a minute later on a nice backhand goal from Andrew Agozzino. The left winger skated around some Rockford defensemen, and lifted the puck over the left shoulder and past the glove of Jason LaBarbera for his ninth goal of the season.
Joakim Nordstrom, who recently had a nine-game point streak broken, brought the lead back up to a 3-point margin with an unassisted goal 1:11 later.
Rockford’s power play continued to click, registering two more power-play goals in the final frame, putting Rockford at 3-for-5 for the game. Oddly enough, Rockford’s league-worst penalty kill held the Monsters scoreless in six attempts.
Mark McNeill tallied the first power-play goal at 8:37 of the final frame, and a late goal on a sweet move by Pat Mullane with 49 seconds left put the lid on an impressive 6-1 win. The five-goal spread is Rockford’s largest margin of victory and highest goal total in one game on the season.
Dahlbeck would factor in on the last two goals, which tied an IceHogs’ single-game record, notching four assists on the evening.
Keys for the week
Special teams were indeed that, as Rockford’s PK unit finally had a good showing, holding Lake Erie scoreless on 10 attempts, including an extended five-on-three, and the power-play squad showed an impressive 4-for-7 with the extra skater.
Jason LaBarbera has been paying dividends for the IceHogs since his assignment, showing a 2-1-0-1 record with a .928 save percentage and a 2.46 GAA in his four games played.
For injury news, defenseman Viktor Svedberg returned from injury after being out for almost one month. Brandon Pirri, who was recently selected as a member of the AHL All-Star team, remains out from an injury sustained in a Dec. 30 game. Brad Mills also remains out from an injury suffered earlier in the season while he was up with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rockford has a unique schedule this week with a very early 11 a.m. home game Wednesday, Jan. 15, against the Abbotsford Heat. Saturday, Jan. 18, the IceHogs will head to Chicago to face the Wolves. The ’Hogs then turn back around to come home Monday, Jan. 20, and host the Toronto Marlies for a 1 p.m. matinee.
Photos from these — and other — Rockford IceHogs home games can be seen on my website at www.reicherstudios.com/Sports/HockeyPhotos, or on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/ReicherStudios.
From the Jan. 15-21, 2014, issue