By Todd Reicher
Although sporting a good record to start the season, Rockford’s goal total was somewhat lacking compared to what was expected at the start of training camp. This weekend, however, Rockford finally managed to put some points on the scoreboard against two divisional opponents.
In the first of 12 divisional games against the Chicago Wolves, Rockford came from behind for a 4-3 victory over their Western Conference rival.
Rockford found themselves behind the 8-ball early after a Philip McRae goal 55 seconds into the contest for the Wolves, but a goal by the ’Hogs’ Dennis Rasmussen at 3:27 evened it up.
A sweet tic-tac-toe goal by Phillip Danault just shy of the midway point of the first frame gave Rockford its first lead of the game.
Chicago’s Sebastian Wannstrom would knot the game up just more than 3 minutes later with his first tally of the season.
The game would stay tied at 2-2 until ex-IceHogs and Chicago Blackhawks skater Colin Fraser potted his third goal of the season with just more than 3 minutes remaining in the second to put the Wolves ahead by one goal.
One trend for every game Rockford played in this year is a tie score after 40 minutes of hockey. With time winding down, it appeared this trend would continue, but Klas Dahlbeck lit the lamp for the second time this season with a blast from between the face-off circles with 36 seconds left in the period, tying the game and keeping the tie-score streak alive.
Only one goal was tallied in the third period, and it was a Brandon Mashinter marker that was the equalizer. Mash drove hard to the net and picked up a loose puck on the opposite side of the net. He fumbled the puck for a brief second before grabbing hold of it and tapping it into the net.
Despite pulling their goaltender in the waning minutes of the game, Rockford fended off the hungry Wolves and left with a 4-3 win.
The following afternoon, Rockford hosted its second home game in as many days, this time to the Lake Erie Monsters. The Monsters had come into the game picking up points in two consecutive outings, looking to make it three straight, while Rockford picked up a win the previous night.
Rockford controlled the pace throughout most of the first period and held a 10-5 shots-on-goal advantage. It appeared the game would go to a tie at the end of 20 minutes, but Adam Clendening made a few sweet moves in transition into the offensive zone and sniped a shot over the shoulder of Calvin Pickard for 1-0 lead.
Rasmussen tallied his second goal in as many nights with a brilliant display of hand-eye coordination to give Rockford a 2-0 lead at the midpoint of the game. Ryan Hartman fed the puck, which was deflected up into the air in the direction of the rookie who was heading into the zone. In a swift move, Rasmussen dropped the puck and immediately swatted the puck into the back of the net for the goal.
Maxim Noreau finally put the Monsters on the board with his second tally of the season with just more than 5 minutes left in the period.
With the Monsters short a man because of a penalty, Andrew Agozzino capitalized on a Michael Leighton gaffe behind the net, knotting the score at 2-2. Leighton went to play the puck behind the net, but fumbled it before racing around to the front. Agozzino alertly picked up the rubber and showed quick hands, wrapping it around and in, beating Leighton.
Despite being outshot 23-12 after 40 minutes, the Monsters had brought themselves back into the contest. And yes, for the seventh straight time this season, the IceHogs went into the locker room tied after two periods.
However, this game was bound for a happy ending. Rockford would score three unanswered goals, including an empty net tally in the final minute, to seal a 5-2 win over Lake Erie.
Matt Carey, who was a force all over the ice for most of the game, tallied his first professional game, and first professional game-winning goal early in the frame to put Rockford up 3-2.
With exactly 7 minutes left in the game, Hartman completed the Gordie Howe hat trick with his third goal of the season, assisted by Kyle Cumiskey and Garrett Ross. The goal gave the aforementioned Cumiskey his third assist of the evening, which earned him a first-star nomination for the evening.
Carey made a very unselfish play with less than a minute remaining, assisting on the empty net goal. While coming in two-on-one into the offensive zone with the puck, Carey dished the puck to Mark McNeill, who was waiting on his right wing, and gracefully tapped the puck into the open net for his second tally of the season.
Leighton was handed his second straight win while stopping 21 of 23 shots and Pickard was given the loss after stopping 26 of the 30 shots he faced.
The ’Hogs head back on the road starting with a Wednesday, Oct. 29, match against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The team then heads south for the weekend with a series against the San Antonio Rampage Friday, Oct. 31, and Saturday, Nov. 1. As of press time, the Rampage stand 1 point ahead of Rockford in the division standings with the same number of games played as Rockford (seven) while the Grifs sit 3 points behind Rockford with two fewer games played.
Rockford will return home from their road trip on Tuesday, Nov. 4, to host the Lake Erie Monsters.
Posted Oct. 28, 2014