Tales from the Trough: IceHogs grab 1 point vs. Milwaukee, playoff race tightens

March 18, 2014

Rockford IceHogs forward Brad Mills has made an impact in his recent return to the Rockford lineup after a three-month injury kept him out of the game. Mills tallied two goals, including the game-tying goal, this past weekend against the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

Rockford IceHogs forward Brad Mills has made an impact in his recent return to the Rockford lineup after a three-month injury kept him out of the game. Mills tallied two goals, including the game-tying goal, this past weekend against the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo by Todd Reicher)

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

For the third straight game, the IceHogs lined up against the Milwaukee Admirals. And for the third straight time, the ’Hogs skated away with a loss … although this weekend, it was a shootout loss, 6-5.

The Admirals struck early on their first shot of the game, the sixth goal of the year from Francis Wathier.

The ’Hogs’ hottest player in the last two months, Jeremy Morin, scored the next two goals of the game to give Rockford their first lead of the game. The first goal at 4:41 tied the game, and a power-play marker at 10:33, Morin’s 24th of the year, gave Rockford the lead.

That one-goal lead only lasted 33 seconds when Mark Van Guilder notched his 11th goal of the campaign.

Another lead was taken by Rockford courtesy of Brad Mills and his fourth marker this season, but two Milwaukee goals in a 17-second span gave the Ads a 4-3 lead after a high-scoring 20 minutes.

The second period was played like a completely different game by both teams. Opposed to the first period where a combined 31 shots were fired, only 14 shots were fired with one finding the back of the net. The goal was a Rockford tally, Joakim Nordstrom’s 16th in his rookie season.

Milwaukee took control of the final period and tripled Rockford’s shot output, 12-4. Calle Jarnkrok notched his 17th marker of the season early in the final frame to give the Admirals the lead once again.

Mills matched Morin, netting two goals in the game with a power-play marker at 5:33 to once again tie the game.

The 5-5 score remained through regulation and overtime, sending the game to a shootout.

Marek Mazanec shut down the ’Hogs, holding all three Rockford shooters scoreless, while three of four Milwaukee shooters tallied to earn Milwaukee the extra point for the game. Jason LaBarbera was saddled with the shootout loss for the ’Hogs.

Keys for the week

Rockford’s defensive struggles continued against the Admirals, giving up five goals this past week. For the three consecutive games against their Midwest foes, Milwaukee lit up the ’Hogs for 19 goals. In their last six games, the ’Hogs have given up a total of 31 goals.

Rockford kept themselves in the playoff hunt by earning 1 point in their only game this week. The ’Hogs were also helped by a number of other teams this weekend, as the Oklahoma City Barons, Chicago Wolves and Charlotte Checkers lost a few games this weekend.

Looking forward

The playoff race is becoming much tighter as the season winds down, with Rockford clinging to the eighth — and final — spot, 3 points ahead of the Oklahoma City Barons. The Charlotte Checkers, who went 1-1 this past weekend, are 4 points behind Rockford, but have one game in hand on the ’Hogs.

On the opposite side, Rockford is 1 point behind the Rochester Americans, who went 0-2-1 in three games this weekend. The Americans, however, have one game in hand on the ’Hogs. The Admirals are also 1 point ahead of Rockford, but have two games in hand.

Rockford looks to close the gap in the Midwest with a home-and-home series against the Chicago Wolves beginning Friday, March 21. The Friday game takes place at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, while the Saturday game is in Rockford. The ’Hogs play the Wolves five more times this season, including the above two games.

In Rockford’s 13 remaining games, they will face 10 Midwest Division opponents. Of those 13 games, seven will be home games, including four of the last five.

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 March 19-25, 2014, issue

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