By Todd Reicher
The Midwest Division got a bit tighter this week as the rival Milwaukee Admirals defeated Rockford in two straight games to highlight week 13.
In the first of Rockford’s two games this week, the IceHogs traveled up to Milwaukee to face the Admirals on Thursday, Jan. 8.
Things looked good early, as Rockford hopped out to a 2-0 lead.
Rockford’s first goal, an unassisted power-play marker by Phillip Danault, put the ’Hogs up 1-0. Danault cleaned up a rebound in the slot after Milwaukee was unable to corral the rubber.
T.J. Brennan scored from his favorite spot, the near face-off circle, at 12:15 of the first to put Rockford up 2-0.
Triston Grant cut the lead in half later in the period on his second marker of the season.
Milwaukee then took control of the game, dominating the second period by a 10-shot and three-goal total. The Ads poured 14 shots on Scott Darling, three of which found the back of the net, as Milwaukee took a commanding 4-2 lead. After the fourth goal, Darling was pulled in favor of Michael Leighton.
Both teams showed goose eggs on the scoreboard for the final period, and the Ads took the first game of the home-and-home 4-2.
The following night, both clubs squared off at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford for the second game of the series.
In what turned out to be a goalie stalemate, it was the Ads taking a 1-0 overtime win. There were not many highlights to cover in this one, unless you could somehow describe the acrobatic and physical perseverance of both netminders. Leighton and Marek Mazanec both made one highlight reel save after another and stopped a combined 61 of 62 shots. It was truly a shame that one goaltender had to lose this game.
Zach Miskovic rang iron midway through the third period, and both teams missed a few open nets, but besides that, the game was stolen by the backstops.
There were also very few penalties called in the game — three for Rockford and one for Milwaukee — but neither team was able to take advantage of the extra attacker.
In the overtime session, it was Austin Watson scoring his team-leading 14th goal of the season 2:14 into the session on Milwaukee’s second shot of the overtime period. Leighton was partially screened on the shot, which was a cross-ice pass that beat Leighton over his left shoulder.
The overtime goal was the first puck that beat Leighton in exactly 187:29, which lasted over four contests.
Despite a dismal 3-5-2 record in their last 10, Rockford still holds a 4-point lead over Milwaukee, and 5 over Grand Rapids for the lead in the Midwest Division. Milwaukee, however, has two games in hand, and the Griffins have three.
After the games this week, Rockford is officially halfway through the season and on track for 94 points this season. A mid-season recap will take place next week, as I interview Mike Peck from the Rockford IceHogs as we talk stats, players, observations and predictions.
Rockford will play three games this week, starting with a Tuesday, Jan. 13, match against the Charlotte Checkers (results unavailable at press time). The ’Hogs then host the Iowa Wild Friday, Jan. 16, before heading across the state to play the Chicago Wolves Saturday, Jan. 17. All three games hold a 7 p.m. start time. The Checkers and Wolves both show a sub-.500 record over the last 10 games, while the Wild are slightly above at 6-4.
From the Jan. 14-20, 2015, issue