By Todd Reicher
It was a great run while it lasted, but the Rockford IceHogs point streak was finally snapped this weekend at 11 games.
Coming into week 22, the IceHogs had earned at least one point in every game in the month of February and looked to close out the month the same way they started.
Friday, Feb. 28, the ‘Hogs headed down to Oklahoma City to place the first game of a two game series against the Oklahoma City Barons. Reports from the arena stated the warm weather was contributing to choppy/sloppy ice conditions, which resulted in some odd bounces of the puck. In fact, the weather in neighboring Texas was so warm that dangerous ice conditions at the AT&T Center in San Antonio led to the suspension of the Stars/Rampage game eight minutes into the contest.
For the 10th straight game, Rockford lit the scoreboard first courtesy of defenseman Bobby Shea. The unassisted goal, tallied at 6:44 of the opening period, was the second of the year for the rookie blue-liner.
Terry Broadhurst doubled the lead almost seven minutes later with his 12th of the campaign.
Matthew Ford, who had a stellar weekend series for the Barons, tallied his 13th of the season with a power play marker late in the period to draw the score to 2-1.
Another early power play goal in the second knotted the score at 2 with a Mark Arcobello goal at 1:36.
The tie was short-lived as Broadhurst would strike 48 seconds later to reclaim a one-goal lead for the ‘Hogs.
Midway through the second, Ford would answer back with his second marker of the game to knot the score once again.
Not to be outdone, Shea tallied his second of the game, assisted by Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin, to give Rockford another tie-breaking lead. The assists by Pirri and Morin would extend each of their consecutive game point streaks to seven and 11 games respectively.
With 2:46 left in regulation, former Chicago Blackhawks forward Ben Eager tallied his fifth goal of the season to knot the score one last time.
Oklahoma City took the lead for the first time in the game 46 seconds into overtime to win the game. Tyler Pitlick potted his seventh goal of the season to give the Barons a hard-fought 5-4 win at home. Although the ‘Hogs lost in overtime, they still earned one point, extending the point streak to 11 games. The 11 games all took place in the month of February where Rockford held a 9-0-1-1 record.
The following night both teams met again, and, oddly enough, the score was an identical 5-4 win for the Barons.
Ford bit the ‘Hogs for his third goal of the weekend midway through the opening frame with the third power play marker of the weekend.
With Theo Peckham in the box at the start of the second period, Arcobello tallied his second of the series 44 seconds in to give the Barons their biggest lead of the weekend at 2-0.
Morin would respond less than two minutes later with his team leading 21st goal of the season to bring the ‘Hogs to within one and extend his point streak to 12 games.
Almost exactly halfway through the game defenseman Adam Clendening fired a rocket past Barons goalie Richard Bachman to even things up at 2-2.
Similar to how the ‘Hogs responded to the tie the previous night, the Barons Steve Pinizzotto scored 18 seconds later to reclaim the lead for the Barons at 3-2. The goal signified the end of the night for Rockford starting goaltender Kent Simpson who gave up three goals on 23 shots. Jason LaBarbera didn’t fare well either as he was scored on just three minutes after entering the game, putting the Barons up 4-2.
Brad Mills, who missed a majority of the season due to injury, scored his third goal of the season with 1:27 left in the second to bring the score to a manageable 4-3 gap at the end of two periods.
Pirri extended his point streak earlier with a primary assist on the Mills goal, and tied the game just shy of the midway point in the third period with Rockford’s only power play goal of the weekend. The goal was Pirri’s 200th point in an IceHogs uniform, making him the first Rockford player to reach the mark.
The bad ice conditions led to many odd bounces, but none more costly than one with just under four minutes left in the game. As a pass was headed back to Clendening, who was manning the blue line in the Barons zone, the puck hopped over Clendening’s stick back towards the Rockford zone. Austin Fyten alertly picked up the put behind the Rockford defense and beat LaBarbera to put the Barons up 5-4.
With the goaltender on the bench for Rockford, the ‘Hogs were unable to grab the tying goal and the Barons handed the ‘Hogs their first regulation loss since January 31.
Keys for the Week
The Rockford defense, who had allowed a total of three goals in their last three games, gave up a total of 10 in the two games against the Barons.
Morin and Pirri both extended their personal point streaks to 12 and nine games this weekend. Pirri tallied three points (1 goal, 2 assists) over the weekend while Morin finished off with two points, (1goal, 1 assist). Morin’s 12 game point streak, currently the longest active streak in the AHL, is the second longest this season, one behind two players whose streaks have ended. During his current run, Morin shows 10 goals and nine assists.
Unfortunately, Pirri’s point streak will be with another team as he was traded on Sunday evening, March 2 to the Florida Panthers for two draft picks – a third round draft pick in the 2014 draft and a fifth round pick in the 2016 draft.
The IceHogs look to rebound from the first regulation loss on Tuesday, March 4 against the last team to beat them before the recent Barons game – the Rochester Americans, at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford then heads off for an important home-and-home series against the Milwaukee Admirals. The Friday, March 7, game against Milwaukee is at the BMO Harris Bradley Center while the second game is Saturday in Rockford.
Photos from these — and other — Rockford IceHogs home games can be seen on my website at reicherstudios.com/Sports/HockeyPhotos, or on my Facebook page, Facebook.com/ReicherStudios.
From the March 5-11, 2014 print issue