By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs’ last two weeks on the schedule were quite tough, and Rockford managed to come away with some hard-earned points. The load would not get any lighter, as Rockford would face three divisional foes in week eight.
Rockford’s Wednesday, Nov. 26, game against the last-place Iowa Wild was a tough battle, to say the least. Some tempers were flaring in the first, with Curt Gogol and P.C. Labrie dropping the gloves toward the end of the period.
The IceHogs outshot the Wild by a whopping 17-7 in the period, but had nothing to show for their efforts, as both teams headed off the ice tied 0-0 after 20 minutes. Wild backstop John Curry made some timely saves, keeping the Wild in the game.
The rough stuff continued with the Wild’s Stephane Veilleux boarding Stephen Johns 6 minutes into the frame. Johns’ defensive partner, Viktor Svedberg, came to his rescue quickly and wrangled Veilleux to the ice while Johns lay motionless on the frozen surface. Johns eventually left the ice under his own power, and slowly skated to the locker room. Shockingly, Veilleux was only flagged with a 2-minute minor for roughing, and Svedberg was tagged for the same penalty. Johns eventually returned to the ice about 5 minutes later. The next day, Veilleux was suspended for two games as a result of the roughing incident. Despite all the action on the ice, neither team had scored.
That would all change midway through the second period when Teuvo Teravainen redirected a Johns shot past Curry for the 1-0 lead.
Dennis Rasmussen would double that lead to 2-0 with 1:51 left in the period on his fifth goal of the season. The goal was the result of a Svedberg shot, which Rasmussen cleaned up.
Rockford continued its offensive dominance in the second period and held a commanding 36-14 shots-on-goal advantage while pulling ahead 2-0.
The IceHogs added another goal early in the third to bring all of the momentum to their end. The Drew LeBlanc tally at 3:31 of the third put Rockford into a 3-0 lead.
Then, the game started to break down with Iowa’s Gogol throwing his body around. A vicious charging penalty from Gogol on Alex Broadhurst led to Zach Miskovic grabbing Gogol in front of the IceHogs’ bench and fighting him to the ground. Broadhurst wound up leaving the game, and would not return. Gogol was charged with a 5-minute major for charging and a game misconduct. Rockford forward Cody Bass did not care for Gogol’s reckless play and came off the bench to confront Gogol. However, the linesman grabbed Bass before he was able to reach Gogol. Ryan Hartman was also vocal about his displeasure of the incident and was charged with a 10-minute misconduct penalty for Abuse of Officials. All said and done, 57 penalty minutes were doled out. After the game, it was announced that Gogol would be suspended for two games for the charging incident and Bass was suspended for one game for leaving the bench.
The fracas would spark the IceHogs’ offense, and Ville Pokka would grab two goals in a span of 4 minutes to give the ’Hogs a commanding 5-0 lead.
Scott Darling’s bid for a shutout was ended at 12:09 of the final frame when Christian Folin got one into the back of the net.
Peter Regin answered back just more than 2 minutes later to reclaim a five-goal lead for the ’Hogs. Rasmussen was credited with the primary assist for a multi-point game.
Two nights later, the IceHogs played host to the Chicago Wolves in the first game of a home-and-home series.
Chicago absolutely dominated Rockford in the first 20 minutes. Ty Rattie scored just 1:49 into the game, and the Wolves outshot the ’Hogs 12-4.
The IceHogs rebounded well in the second period with two goals in the first 8 minutes. Labrie put his second goal of the season into the net at 2:23 of the middle frame, and rookie Jamie Wise, playing in his first AHL game, tallied his first goal at 7:59 with a gritty goal in front of the net.
Five minutes later, Shane Harper knotted the score back at 2-2 with a goal right in front of the net. Darling was down low to cover the net, and looked to have most of the net blocked, but the puck deflected up high and into the corner of the net.
Brandon Mashinter cleaned up a TJ Brennan shot to give Rockford a 3-2 lead 6:22 into the final frame.
Rockford put on the pressure and played its puck possession game, dominating Chicago into the chances territory.
The ’Hogs also got two prime scoring opportunities late in the third with two Chicago penalties, but Rockford was unable to convert.
With time winding down, Chicago goaltender Matt Climie was sent to the bench for the extra attacker. It was then that two former Chicago Blackhawks players came back to sting the ’Hogs. A point shot by Brent Sopel was redirected in front of the net by Colin Fraser and found its way past Darling with 1:06 left in the game. The IceHogs ended the period out-shooting the Wolves 19-6, but only one goal was allowed by each team.
Both teams played a fast-paced overtime session, and both had prime scoring opportunities. The best chance was with 1:30 left in the period as Teravainen picked up a loose puck and came in alone for a breakaway. Climie alertly came out of the crease to challenge, and poke-checked the puck away, breaking up the scoring chance.
With time about to expire in the period, Brent Regner put the nail in the coffin with 11 seconds left in overtime.
The following night, Chicago turned the tide from late in the previous game and held court against Rockford in the first, holding a 15-5 shots-on-goal advantage. Michael Leighton, making his first start since returning from injury, stopped all shots he faced in the first.
However, a Mashinter penalty at the end of the period would come back to bite the ’Hogs early in the second with a power-play goal from Rattie.
Rockford started to even up the shots-on-goal in the second, holding a 14-12 advantage, however, Chicago carried the only goal of the game, and the lead, into the third.
Harper scored for Chicago on the power play 5:06 into the third period to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Pokka managed to tally a power-play goal with 4 minutes remaining in the game to bring Rockford closer to tying the game.
Leighton was sent to the bench with 1:12 left in the period, but Rockford was unable to tally the equalizing goal, as Chicago held on for a 2-1 lead.
Despite the 1-1-1 record in week eight, Rockford still sits atop the AHL with the best record in the league at 15-5-1-1 and 32 points, 1 point ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Springfield Falcons.
Rockford’s schedule remains hectic this week with another three games in four days. The IceHogs head up to Milwaukee to take on the rival Admirals for a Thursday, Dec. 4, match-up. The team then heads back to the BMO in Rockford for two home games: a Saturday, Dec. 6, game against the Grand Rapids Griffins for the annual Teddy Bear Toss game, and a 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7, game against the Lake Erie Monsters.
Posted Dec. 2, 2014