Tales from the Trough: IceHogs’ point streak hits season-high seven games

Rockford IceHogs rookie Mark McNeill sneaks the puck under the pad of Chicago Wolves goaltender Jake Allen for his 14th goal of the season. McNeill would tally another goal Saturday, Feb. 15, against the Iowa Wild, giving the center 28 points on the season (15 goals, 13 assists). (Photo by Todd Reicher)
Rockford IceHogs rookie Mark McNeill sneaks the puck under the pad of Chicago Wolves goaltender Jake Allen for his 14th goal of the season. McNeill would tally another goal Saturday, Feb. 15, against the Iowa Wild, giving the center 28 points on the season (15 goals, 13 assists). (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

Rockford extended its season-long point streak to seven games with a 2-0-0-1 record in week 20.

The win streak would have moved to a season-high seven games if not for some last-minute heroics by Chicago, who scored the game-tying goal with 4 seconds left in the game Friday, Feb. 14.

The IceHogs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a Jeremy Morin goal 97 seconds into the game. Morin received a pass from Klas Dahlbeck on the left wing, and held the puck by the boards. After a quick fake right, Morin skated around the defense to his left, leaving him alone against AHL All-Star goaltender Jake Allen. Morin faked a shot five-hole, which froze Allen, skated around the other side of the crease, and slid the puck past the toe of Allen for his 16th goal of the season.

Dahlbeck pinched in tight at the 6:54 mark to tally his ninth goal of the season to give Rockford a 2-0 lead.

Chicago picked up the pace in the second half of the period and evened the score with two power-play goals. The second goal looked to be waived off as a result of goaltender interference, but the penalty was not called, and the goal was awarded.

The fans, along with the Rockford coaching staff, were arguing with the on-ice officials as they were leaving the ice, clearly displeased with some of the calls made in the first 20 minutes.

Rockford’s PK unit picked it up at the start of the second period and stopped a long five-on-three to keep the home team in the game.

Only a few short minutes after the power play ended, Chicago struck once again with the only goal of the second period to give them a 3-2 lead, their first lead of the game.

The officials kept their whistles down in the second, at least against Rockford, and Chicago was called for three penalties, two of which occurred in the final 22 seconds of the period.

Despite a long five-on-three, Rockford was unable to earn a goal until the final penalty expired. Exactly 1 second after the Wolves’ fifth skater returned to the ice, Brandon Pirri received a nice pass from Adam Clendening, leading to the winger’s sixth of the season.

A goal off the stick of Mark McNeill helped the ’Hogs reclaim the lead just shy of the midway point in the third period. The go-ahead goal was his 14th of the season. Clendening earned his second point of the night with the secondary assist.

With Allen sent to the net in favor of the extra attacker, Rockford looked for the empty-net goal and the win. What looked to be an apparent tripping penalty against Chicago on Morin was not called, and Chicago headed into the Rockford zone with a six-on-four advantage. Adrian Aucoin scored with 4 seconds left on the clock, knotting the score at 4-4, resulting in a chorus of jeers from the fans.

Neither team scored in the overtime session, and the shootout would go to an eighth round before Chicago was claimed the victor. Despite the loss, Rockford earned a point, pushing their point streak to five games.

The streak would reach six games the following night with a 5-3 road victory over the Iowa Wild.

For the fifth game in a row, Rockford was the first on the board. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who missed the Chicago game because of bad weather keeping him in New York, scored his seventh goal with 1:33 left in the first.

Once again, Rockford pulled ahead 2-0 with a quick second-period goal from McNeill.

Similar to their last meeting, Iowa tallied three second-period goals to bring the game to a 3-3 tie.

After Rockford’s early second-period goal, Erik Haula scored an unassisted goal for his 12th of the season.

Alex Broadhurst put Rockford back ahead by two with his 12th of the season, assisted by his brother Terry Broadhurst and Jeff Skinner.

On a subsequent power play, Stephane Veilleux scored shorthanded to close the gap to one. Iowa’s third goal of the period, scored at 17:10 by Justin Mercer, knotted the score once again.

It wasn’t until a blast by Clendening at 12:44 of the third period that Rockford would reclaim the lead.

An empty-net goal by Brad Winchester with 32 seconds left in regulation sealed the deal for Rockford, and the ’Hogs skated away with a 5-3 win.

The following afternoon, the same two teams met for the second game of a double-header with Rockford edging out the Wild once again with a 4-2 win, extending their point streak to seven games.

The trend continued, with Rockford notching two first-period goals to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Morin continued his hot streak— and the seven-game point streak — by tallying his team-leading 17th goal of the season with 5:07 left in the opening frame. Bouchard continues to produce for Rockford, as he was credited with the primary assist.

Pirri extended the ’Hogs’ lead to 2-0 with 1:23 left with his seventh marker. Brandon Mashinter received the puck from Garrett Ross, which he stole from a Iowa defenseman, to set up Pirri.

Rockford would give up a late goal to Iowa’s Curt Gogol with 12 seconds left in the period to cut the lead in half at the end of 20 minutes.

A recent trend for the IceHogs, especially against Iowa, was giving up multiple goals in the second period. The trend was broken on this night as both teams were held scoreless in the middle frame, and a total of 14 combined shots were fired compared to 25 in the first period.

Midway through the final frame, Iowa’s Jonathon Blum tallied a power-play marker to even the score at 2-2.

With fewer than 5 minutes left, Bouchard created a turnover behind the Wild net, and immediately dropped the puck to Pirri, who was following the play. Wild goaltender John Curry did not see the drop pass and continued to focus on Bouchard, who continued to roll around to Curry’s left. Meantime, Pirri pulled the puck around the right side of the net and slid it behind Curry before he could return to the right post, giving Rockford a 3-2 lead.

As time wound down, Mashinter fired a puck into the empty net from just inside the center line to seal a 4-2 win for the ’Hogs and complete the weekend road sweep.

Keys for the week

The IceHogs’ offense continues to rack up the goals with 13 markers in three games this week.

Rockford’s seven-game point streak is their longest of the season, surpassing a five-game point streak that started Nov. 30 and lasted until Saturday, Dec. 14. Rockford is one of the AHL’s hottest teams right now, holding an 8-1-0-1 record in their last 10 games.

Picking up points against divisional foes has been a tough task for Rockford this season, but the ’Hogs managed to take 4 points against Iowa this weekend, putting them 8 points ahead of the Wild in the standings. The Wild, however, have five games in hand on the IceHogs.

Looking forward

Rockford plays two games this week, both against Midwest Division opponents. A Friday, Feb. 21, rematch against the Wolves at the BMO is on slate, followed by a home game against the Milwaukee Admirals Saturday, Feb. 22. As of Sunday, Feb. 16, the IceHogs were 2 points ahead of Milwaukee in the standings, although Milwaukee has four games in hand. Rockford sits 5 points behind the Wolves, who have three games in hand on the ’Hogs.

View more photos at www.reicherstudios.com/Sports/HockeyPhotos, or on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/ReicherStudios.

From the Feb. 19-25, 2014, issue

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