By Todd Reicher
In a hard-fought game, the Milwaukee Admirals spoiled the Rockford IceHogs’ 2014-2015 season opener with a 3-2 victory Saturday, Oct. 11, at Rockford’s BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford came out with all the energy, flying up and down the ice, making sharp, crisp passes and putting shot after shot on the net. Midway through the period, Rockford was up 10-5 on the shot count, although nothing had met the back of the net. Milwaukee weathered the storm well, and eventually caught up to Rockford on the shot count with a few minutes remaining in the period.
As the first period approached the final minutes, Rockford put the first point on the board with a tally from rookie forward Ryan Hartman. The first-year player was awarded for his aggressive play as he drove hard to the net, following up on a strong play by Philip Danault. The puck almost crossed the goal crease for Danault, but Milwaukee netminder Marek Mazanek could not locate the puck, and Hartman raced in to slap the puck past the line for a 1-0 lead.
As the second period got under way, Milwaukee quickly shifted the momentum to their favor. Less than 30 seconds into the period, Mark Van Guilder won an offensive face-off draw back to Austin Watson, who immediately fired the puck past Rockford goaltender Michael Leighton, knotting the score at 1-1.
5:59 into the middle frame, Milwaukee took its first lead of the game as Van Guilder tallied his second point of the night. Watson also received his second point of the evening with the secondary assist. After a scum ensued in front of Leighton, the IceHogs’ defenders were unable to clear the traffic, or the puck, from the area, and Van Guilder pushed it past a sprawled-out Leighton.
Hartman was credited for his second goal of the night with a fortuitous bounce off Rockford defenseman Zach Miskovic. As the team rushed into the offensive zone, Hartman fired a puck toward the net, where Miskovic was pushing hard for position. The rubber bounced off the ninth-year veteran and past Mazanek, knotting the game at 2-2.
Rockford’s biggest miscue of the night turned out to cost them the game. With a seemingly routine play behind the net, Adam Clendening misplayed the puck, much to the delight of Ads centerman Fredrick Gaudreau, who beat Clendening for possession. The young rookie immediately fed the puck out to the front of the net, where a charging Joe Pendenza fired a one-timer past Leighton for his first career goal.
Hartman almost single-handedly put Rockford back in the game on multiple occasions, but was stymied by the stellar play of Mazanek.
Despite pulling Leighton in the final 1:30 of the period, Rockford was unable to tally the equalizer, giving the Ads a 3-2 victory. This was the sixth straight win for the Ads against their Midwest Division rival.
Mazanec was the hero for the Ads, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced, and single-handedly kept the Ads in the game. Leighton stopped 20 of 23 Milwaukee shots, although none of those goals (possibly the first one) could be held against him.
You can certainly see the potential for the group in Rockford, and once they begin to gel together, the team will start putting up wins. This was certainly a game the boys could have won, but the mental lapses and mistakes gave Milwaukee two golden opportunities, which they capitalized upon.
The IceHogs will embark on their longest road streak of the season, starting with a Thursday game Oct. 16 against the Adirondack Flames. Rockford then heads to Canada for a Saturday game against the Hamilton Bulldogs, followed by a Sunday matinee against the Toronto Marlies.
Rockford will stay out East and play the Rochester Americans Wednesday, Oct. 22, before coming back home to the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday, Oct. 25, to host the Chicago Wolves.
From the Oct. 15-21, 2014, issue