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Tales from the Trough: IceHogs lose a few tight games in Week 16

January 22, 2014
Rockford IceHogs defenseman Jared Nightingale fights for position with Abbotsford Heat forward Ben Hanowski during Wednesday’s game. Nightingale was recently named the captain for the IceHogs, making him the eighth captain in team history. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

Rockford IceHogs defenseman Jared Nightingale fights for position with Abbotsford Heat forward Ben Hanowski during Wednesday’s game. Nightingale was recently named the captain for the IceHogs, making him the eighth captain in team history. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

A few one-goal games hurt the Rockford IceHogs this week as the ’Hogs lost two. The first game, an early 11 a.m. game Wednesday, Jan. 15, against the Abbotsford Heat, saw Rockford give up a two-goal third-period lead, en route to a 4-3 overtime loss.

Rockford took control of the game early in the first on Brad Winchester’s 12th goal of the season. Defenseman Theo Peckham was the lone assist on the goal. Winchester skated back toward the blue line, tracking a puck that was destined to clear into the neutral zone, and flung it toward the goal, where it found its way past Joey MacDonald for the lead.

The ’Hogs doubled their lead late in the second while on their first power-play opportunity of the game with a goal by rookie skater Garret Ross, his 11th of the season. Ross took the puck around the right boards, skated all the way up to the right slot, and fired it in.

Abbotsford struck quickly on their second power-play attempt to cut into Rockford’s lead with a Mark Cundari goal at 7:21 of the second.

Brandon Mashinter lit the lamp for his third time in an IceHogs sweater with a one-timer from Ross to bring Rockford back up to a two-goal lead.

The Heat came out of the locker room fired up and scored 17 seconds into the third period to pull to within one. As Evan Trupp raced into the offensive zone, he carried the puck to the front of the net, where IceHogs netminder Jason LaBarbera shoved out his stick to poke the puck away. As LaBarbera thrust his stick forward, the puck deflected off the blade and rainbowed up over the back of the veteran goaltender and into the net.

With under 5 minutes remaining, alternate captain Chad Billins evened the score for the first time since the start of the game.

A weak holding penalty in the overtime session by Joakim Nordstrom led to the game-winning goal from Heat forward Markus Granlund, his 15th of the year.

About 10 minutes after the game expired, Rockford Head Coach Ted Dent had his team back out on the ice in full gear (with warm-up jerseys on instead of their game jerseys) doing some skating drills. Dent, obviously disappointed with this team playing a flat third period, made his players skate for an extra 15 minutes to show the consequences of the team’s poor play.

The ’Hogs had a few days off before heading into Rosemont for a 7 p.m. meeting on Saturday against the Wolves. The game wound up being delayed for 30 minutes as the ’Hogs’ bus encountered a flat tire on I-90. Once again, Rockford dictated the pace of the first period, yet the score remained tied 1-1.

Nathan Longpre scored first for Chicago at 15:33, then Pat Mullane scored just more than 1 minute later to knot the score. The goals were the third of the year for both skaters.

Rockford once again played a listless second period, only accumulating four shots on goal to Chicago’s 13. Regardless, the score remained tied 1-1, and neither team took a penalty.

Ty Rattie broke the tie with his 13th goal of the season at 12:31 of the third.

Despite a late Chicago penalty with 2:16 left in the game, Rockford was unable to snag the equalizer, as the ’Hogs lost their second 1-point game in a row.

Keys for the week

In both games this week, Rockford started out the game with fire and energy, only to lose it later in the game. Going forward, the ’Hogs need to carry this energy and momentum for a full 60 minutes.

After a good 2-for-4 on the power play Wednesday, Rockford’s recently hot power play cooled off against Chicago, as the Wolves held the ’Hogs scoreless in four attempts. On the other side, Rockford’s 29th-ranked penalty kill was a dismal 1-for-3 against Abbotsford, but held Chicago’s 30th-ranked power play scoreless in one attempt.

On the injury front, the ’Hogs should have All-Star forward Brandon Pirri back in the lineup in week 17, which should give the offense a spark.

Looking forward

Rockford has one more early game this week, a 1 p.m. Monday game against the Toronto Marlies (results unavailable at press time). The IceHogs then face the Milwaukee Admirals for three straight games, with the only game in Rockford sandwiched between the two away games in Milwaukee. The first game takes place Friday, Jan. 24, with a 7 p.m. start time. The Saturday game in Rockford starts at the same time, with Sunday’s game in Milwaukee starting at 5 p.m. This week begins a stretch where Rockford will play four of their next six on the road, including two in New York.

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. 22-28, 2014, issue

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