By Todd Reicher
For all intents and purposes, the Rockford IceHogs were out of the playoff race, but a glimmer of hope was still around. If Rockford could win their last two games, and the Oklahoma City Barons would lose both of their games, Rockford could slide into the playoffs. However, a loss to the Chicago Wolves Friday, April 18, ended their hopes of the first postseason bid since the 2009-2010 season.
The Friday game started out with a bad omen, Chicago scoring on their first shot of the game 67 seconds into the contest. Sergey Andronov made a nice fake to the inside to get Jason LaBarbera to go down, then pulled the puck back and slid it in the open side of the net.
The checking line of Pat Mullane, Drew LeBlanc and David Gilbert came through late in the first with Gilbert’s first goal of the seaon.
Just more than a minute later, Ryan Hartman, in only his eighth game with the IceHogs and as a pro, scored his first professional goal to give Rockford a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
As the game progressed, Rockford put on more pressure, but it was the Wolves who were rewarded first. Michael Davies scored his 12th marker of the season to knot the score at 2-2 early in the second.
Centerman Phillip Danault notched his sixth marker of the season to reclaim a one-goal lead for Rockford at 9:42 of the second. Around this point of the game, Rockford was out-shooting the Wolves 29-16.
Tyler Shattock tallied his sixth of the season to even the score once again with just more than 4 minutes left in the period.
Minutes later, Rockford was rewarded with a lengthy five-on-three advantage, but was unable to capitalize on the 90-second advantage.
Chicago played a tight-checking third period and limited Rockford’s shots to only six, while throwing out 10 of their own. Two of those Chicago shots found the back of the net: a Nathan Longpre goal at 10:12 and an empty net tally by Alexandre Bolduc with 18 seconds left to kick the ’Hogs out of the playoff picture.
With the ’Hogs officially out of the playoffs, Rockford rested some of its core players, allowing the younger and less-experienced players to get some extra ice time the following night against the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers were also eliminated from the playoffs recently, so the game had all the makings of a high-scoring affair.
Prior to the start of the game, Rockford gave out their annual player awards. MVP for the season was Jeremy Morin; Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck were co-winners of Best Defenseman; Rookie of the Year went to Garret Ross; Brandon Mashinter was the Heavy Hitter recipient; Wade Brookbank took home Unsung Hero; Terry Broadhurst was the Most Improved Player; and Mullane received the Man of the Year Award.
Hartman continued his point streak with his second professional goal 3:34 into the contest to give Rockford the early lead. Danault and Garret Ross received the assists on the game’s first goal.
Victor Rask got the game even with his 16th tally this season during a power-play opportunity.
Rockford’s first power-play opportunity turned in to a Brian Connelly goal at 14:57 to reclaim the lead for the home team.
Right back came the Checkers with another power-play goal, their second of the period, from Ryan Murphy, to send both teams to the locker room tied 2-2.
With Charlotte’s Phil DiGiuseppe in the box for a double-minor high stick to Mathieu Brisebois, Tuevo Teravainen scored his second pro goal to break the tie.
While on the second half of the double-minor, Hartman struck again to double Rockford’s lead to a 4-2 advantage. Midway through the game, both team’s power-play squads were perfect, with Charlotte going 2-for-2 and Rockford 3-for-3.
That streak was broken just after the midway point when Rockford was unable to capitalize on an Aaron Palushaj goaltender interference penalty. However, Rockford still held a 4-2 lead at the second intermission.
Terry Broadhurst broke open the floodgates with his 16th marker of the season 50 seconds into the third frame with an unassisted score.
Rockford took advantage of two consecutive penalties by Matthew Corrente to extend the lead to a big 7-2 margin.
Mashinter, assisted by Stephen Johns, sniped a laser over the left shoulder of John Muse for his 15th of the campaign, and Mullane put his sixth of the year into the back of the net at 11:48, assisted by Brad Mills and Johns.
Before it was all said and done, Brody Sutter scored his eighth of the season to cut Rockford’s lead to 7-3, where it would remain.
Keys for the week
Not so much a key for the week, but for the last eight games, Rockford’s 2-6 record effectively was their downfall. Even if Rockford would have finished 4-4 in those games, they would have ended up tied with the Barons for eighth place, although the Barons would have taken the tie-breaker. Basically, it was the stretch of the last 15 games that killed Rockford’s playoff chances.
Now that the season has finished, we will have a full season recap and my annual season-ending interview with Mike Peck in the near future. Until then, let’s cheer on for some IceHogs players who are now playing for the Blackhawks as they look to dig out of a 2-0 hole against the Blues and move deeper into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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 April 23-29, 2014 issue