By Todd Reicher
After two weeks of 1-1-1 records, the Rockford IceHogs broke the trend and finished week 10 at 2-1-0.
The first game of the week was a road contest against the Milwaukee Admirals on Thursday, Dec. 11. As with all games this season between these two clubs, it was a defensive struggle. After 20 minutes of game play, the score was still 0-0 and a total of only 12 shots were attempted between both teams — eight for Rockford and four for Milwaukee.
We finally had a breakthrough in the goal category, a shot coming off the stick from the hottest ’Hog in the last few weeks, Garrett Ross. The assists were credited to both of Ross’ line mates, Phillip Danault and Dennis Rasmussen.
With time winding down in the second, Pontus Aberg potted his 10th goal of the season past Michael Leighton to even the score at 1-1 going into the final period.
The AHL’s reigning top scoring defenseman, T.J. Brennan, put his sixth goal of the season into the twine only 40 seconds into the final period to give Rockford its second lead of the game.
Once again, Rockford played the puck possession game, although Milwaukee doubled its shot total from the first two periods in an attempt to crack Leighton a second time.
With 1:27 left in the game, Magnus Hellberg was sent to the pine for the extra attacker, but the Rockford defense fought off the sixth skater and hung on for a 2-1 win. The loss for Hellberg was only his second regulation loss of the season. Rockford handed Hellberg his only other regulation loss last week.
The weekend took the ’Hogs to Cleveland for a weekend series against the Lake Erie Monsters. Lake Erie has been riding a hot streak lately, going 7-2-1 over their last 10 games.
Once again, Brennan lit the lamp early in a period, tallying his seventh goal of the season only 27 seconds into the game. Both Ross and Danault also earned assists on the goal, giving them points in consecutive games.
Maxim Noreau knotted the score late in the first period to bring the game to a 1-1 tie after the first stanza. Lake Erie trumped Rockford in the shots department, 7-6 in the period.
Both teams opened fire in the second period, with a total of 26 shots being fired, but only the Monsters were able to capitalize.
Troy Bourke scored shy of the midway point of the second period, and Stefan Elliott tallied with 47 seconds left in the period to put Lake Erie up 3-1 after 40 minutes of play. Lake Erie had an extra attacker out, as Brennan was flagged for a slashing minor, but the goal was on a delayed penalty.
Jeremy Morin, who was sent down to Rockford from the Blackhawks on a conditioning assignment, would be hit with a roughing penalty at the end of the period, giving Lake Erie a power-play opportunity to start the second period.
The Monsters made good on the penalty and scored 56 seconds into the period to give them a commanding 4-1 lead.
Danault continued his offensive production with his fourth goal of the season at 8:36 of the period, giving Rockford a chance for a comeback win.
Despite throwing 14 more shots on net in the final period, Lake Erie’s Sami Aittokallio stood tall and preserved the 4-2 win.
The following night, both teams were reacquainted for the second game of the weekend series.
It was Rockford getting out ahead early for the second straight night, with captain Joakim Nordstrom potting his sixth goal of the season 63 seconds into the game. Brennan was credited with the primary assist, bringing his point streak to three games.
Just more than 3 minutes later, on their first power play of the game, Morin would strike for his first goal of the campaign with assists from Teuvo Teravainen and Nordstrom to put Rockford up 2-0 early.
Monsters Captain Bruno Gervais netted his first of the season just more than 1:30 later and put Lake Erie right back into the game.
Both teams settled down for the rest of the first frame, and Rockford headed into the locker room up 2-1.
For the second straight period, Rockford scored early with Nordstrom getting his second of the game. Ross was the primary assist, putting his scoring streak at three games, and more importantly, giving Rockford a 3-1 lead. Despite a combined 29 shots from both teams, that was the only goal for the period.
The final period was played much tighter, with only 11 shots total, but three of those found the back of the net.
Markus Lauridsen put his fourth goal of the season in the net to bring the Monsters closer, 3-2.
However, Nordstrom was not about to see a late collapse from his team, and netted the hat trick goal at 13:52 of the period to give the ’Hogs a little more breathing room.
With Aittokakallio on the bench with more than 2:30 remaining, Rockford’s Brandon Mashinter found the empty net for his sixth goal of the campaign. Danault earned another point with the primary assist, and secured a 5-2 Rockford win.
Mac Carruth earned his second win of the season, in his second game played, and stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced, and earned him third star of the game.
On Sunday morning, Dec. 14, it was announced that Rockford’s Morin was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade for defenseman Tim Erixon, who will report directly to the Blackhawks.
Rockford continues its season-long six-game road trip Tuesday, Dec. 16, against the Iowa Wild (results unavailable at press time). The IceHogs then head down to Oklahoma City to face the hottest team in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Barons, who have gone 8-2 in their last 10. As of Sunday, Dec. 14, the Barons sit 5 points behind Rockford in the Western Conference standings, but also have three games in hand.
From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue