By Todd Reicher
Rockford continued its winning streak in week four with a hard-fought road win against Grand Rapids. We have to go back more than two years to Oct. 27, 2012, to find the last time the Rockford IceHogs took a victory from the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Van Andel Arena.
It appeared the Griffins would take control of the game early, as Grand Rapids scored on its first shot of the game, 10 seconds into the contest. Teemu Pulkkinen fed a pass to Mitch Callahan, who beat Michael Leighton for a quick 1-0 lead.
Rockford would equal Grand Rapids’ goal with a tally at 5:46 of the first frame. Peter Regin and Teuvo Teravainen set up Matt Carey for his second goal of the season, and second in two games.
Despite six penalties in the first period, two by Rockford and four by the Griffins, neither team converted on the man advantage. The Griffins also outshot Rockford 13-7 in the opening 20 minutes.
The second frame saw a different tide in the form of both shots on goal and penalties, with Rockford committing three and the Griffins with zero. The Griffins were unable to convert on any of their opportunities, and Rockford outshot Grand Rapids 12-9.
Period three saw some hectic back-and-forth action, but most of it was directed toward Leighton, who stood tall. The Griffins more than doubled-up Rockford in shots, 17-8, which was helped by Rockford getting called for another three penalties to the Griffins’ zero, including a brief five-on-three. Rockford’s penalty kill prevailed against the Griffins’ third-ranked power play, keeping the score knotted at 2-2.
Teravainen capitalized on the Griffins’ miscue in the defensive zone late in the game, which benefited Rockford. After coming into possession of the puck, Teravainen slid the puck to a streaking Joakim Nordstrom in the slot. The newly appointed captain fired a blast over the shoulder of Griffins netminder Thomas McCollum for a 2-1 lead with 1:16 remaining in the contest.
After winning the ensuing face-off, McCollum was sent to the bench for the extra attacker, but the Griffins could not tally the equalizer, as Rockford pulled one out of their helmets for a big road win. The victory gave Rockford their third straight win, and set the Griffins back with their third straight home loss of the season.
Key players for this game were obviously Leighton and the ’Hogs’ PK unit. One player in particular who helped late was Mark McNeill with some great defensive play in the five-on-three penalty kill. McNeill blocked a shot and also put himself down in front of a few passes, which were cleared out of the zone, buying Rockford some time.
The IceHogs then headed down to the great state of Texas for a weekend series against the San Antonio Rampage, where the IceHogs took both road games.
Friday’s game was a more evenly matched bout with the IceHogs skating out with a 6-3 win. Rockford never trailed in the game, and scored the first goal at 15:29 of the first period. Carey upped his goal streak to three games with his third tally of the season, set up by Stephen Johns.
Less than a minute later, Blake Parlett scored his first goal of the season to even the score at 1-1, which would hold until the end of the first period.
Rockford’s power-play unit would convert on their first opportunity, 4:45 into the second frame. Nordstrom tallied his third goal of the campaign with a feed from Teravainen. TJ Brennan also assisted on the goal.
Garrett Ross lit the lamp for the first time this season at 10:20 to increase the Rockford lead to 3-1.
Just more than 2 minutes later, Ryan Martindale scored on a San Antonio power play to cut Rockford’s lead back to one goal.
We would go almost another full 20 minutes until the next goal, the second of the evening for Ross, to give Rockford another two-goal cushion.
That cushion would only last for 1:38 when Connor Brickley tallied his third goal of the season.
The IceHogs responded with a goal at 16:25 of the period to give themselves yet another two-goal cushion, courtesy of Philip Danault.
Rampage goaltender Dan Ellis was sent to the bench in favor of the extra attacker, but San Antonio was unable to pot the equalizing goal. Instead, it was Ross netting his third goal of the evening with an empty-net tally at 19:59 of the final period for the hat trick, sealing a 6-3 victory.
Rockford continued its offensive onslaught with a convincing 5-1 win against the same San Antonio team.
The IceHogs would put up five goals before San Antonio was able to solve Scott Darling, who recently returned from the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played a few games in relief of Corey Crawford.
Darling showed poise and confidence, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced in his first game back with the ’Hogs. The only goal Darling allowed was a Mark Mancari goal with with less than 5 minutes remaining in the contest, when Rockford had the game sewed up tight.
Brandon Mashinter scored his second of the season on Rockford’s first power-play opportunity of the evening. Assists were credited to Regin and Nordstrom.
McNeill tallied his first of the year, with Ville Pokka earning his first AHL assist on the play, to put Rockford up 2-0 after the first period.
The second period was more of the same, with Brennan scoring his second of the season early in the frame.
Pokka would tally his first AHL goal later in the period with a power-play marker at 13:26 to give Rockford a commanding 4-0 lead.
The final nail in the coffin was a Dennis Rasmussen goal 35 seconds into the third period to put Rockford ahead 5-0. The goal was Rasmussen’s second point of the night, which was good enough to earn him third star honors for the game.
Rockford returns back to the friendly confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday, Nov. 4, to host the Lake Erie Monsters (results unavailable at press time). From there, Rockford will cross the border to Iowa to face the Wild for the first time this season with a Thursday, Nov. 6, game.
The team returns back to the BMO Saturday, Nov. 8, to host the Grand Rapids Griffins with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue