By Todd Reicher
With three straight wins under their belt, the Rockford IceHogs successfully earned points in all three games this week to extend their point streak to six straight games, going 2-0-0-1.
Rockford’s only loss this week was a shootout drop to the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday. In a goaltenders battle it was Drew MacIntyre outlasting Michael Leighton with a 2-1 shootout victory.
The IceHogs were scoreless through two periods when a careless Rockford turnover in their own zone led to the first goal of the contest. Derek Ryan would sneak his fifth of the season under Leighton with 6:12 remaining in the game to break the tie.
As time was winding down in the third, Rockford was awarded a power play when Drayson Bowman was called for interference, but Rockford was unable to capitalize. Thirteen seconds after the penalty expired, Rockford was awarded yet another power play, their eighth of the game, when Rasmus Rissanen was called for a high-stick. This time, Rockford would cash in with Leighton on the bench with 1:28 left in the game.
After an uneventful overtime session, the IceHogs would head to the shootout where MacIntyre would steal the show, and the game.
T.J. Hensick would be the only player to tally in the shootout as MacIntyre stopped all three Rockford shooters en route to the shootout victory.
Three days later Rockford would host the struggling Iowa Wild in their second meeting of the season. Rockford won the first outing 3-2 in Iowa and would dominate the Wild on Friday with a convincing 4-0 win.
Dennis Robertson potted his first goal in an IceHogs uniform with an unassisted marker 8:31 into the contest. Rockford only held an 8-6 shots-on-goal advantage, but all of Iowa’s shots came in two burst, with three of them in succession on a power play late in the period.
Rockford would extend their lead 6:32 into the second period with a great play from Marko Dano, finished off by Brandon Mashinter. Dano would steal the puck in the neutral zone and race in on goal. At the last minute, he fed the puck over to Mashinter on the right wing where the captain fired the puck behind Leland Irving for a 2-0 lead.
Dennis Rasmussen would notch his second goal of the season off a nice feed from Nolan Valleau and Mark McNeill. As the IceHogs carried the puck in transition, McNeill fed the puck over to Valleau who was trailing behind. The rookie defender carried the puck into the slot and made a nifty no-look pass to Rasmussen who finished his scoring chance.
Aggression rose in the final period as three fights erupted in a seven-minute span, showing Iowa’s frustration. Prior to the first fight, P.C. Labrie would earn his second of the season as he blasted a one-timer off a Jake Dowell face-off win to cap the scoring at 7:55 of the third. On the subsequent puck drop, Labrie would drop the mitts with Kurtis Gabriel, starting the flurry of fights. Mashinter and Sam Jardine would also drop the gloves for Rockford later in the period.
The ‘Hogs fought off a late penalty and Leighton earned his 42nd career AHL shutout, placing him in sole possession of second place on the all-time list, three behind Johnny Bower.
Sunday the IceHogs would head back to Iowa for a rematch against the same Wild team they shut out on Friday.
It was Garrett Ross scoring first with a power play goal 8:55 into the first period. Rasmussen found the winger in front of the net who snagged the puck and quickly turned around and fired it into the net.
Mark Visentin, who was getting his second start of the season, played a flawless first period, stopping all 17 shots he faced. His counterpart, Irving, stopped seven of eight.
The second period featured a few good scoring chances for each team, including Dowell striking a post, but no goals for either team. It would also be the only period the IceHogs would outshoot the Wild, 13-12.
Late in the third period the Wild would get their chance to tie up the game when Chris DeSousa was thrown in the box for holding with 3:22 remaining in regulation.
With just under 10 seconds left remaining on the penalty, the Wild sent Irving to the bench for the extra attacker. Rockford would take possession of the puck in the defensive zone, and as DeSousa was hopping out of the box, Kirill Gotovets found the rookie on the right side of the ice as he tallied his first professional goal into the empty net, securing a 2-0 IceHogs win. For the second straight game, the IceHogs shut out the Wild, and have outscored their neighbor to the west by the tune of 6-0.
After surrendering seven goals in his first outing of the season, Visentin was spectacular in his second game for Rockford stopping all 38 shots he faced in addition to being named the first star of the game.
Ross was named the second star or the game with the game-winning goal, and Vistentin’s counterpart, Irving, was named third star, stopping 27 of 28 shots faced.
Dano, the 20-year-old winger acquired as part of the Brandon Saad trade, was recalled to Chicago and made his debut in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 win over the Kings on Monday.
The oft-maligned Bryan Bickell was sent back to Rockford to open the roster space for the highly-regarded Slovak youngster.
Bickell has been plagued by inconsistency since signing a four-year $16 million contract after the team won the Stanley Cup in 2013.
“It was obviously a tough day when you tell a guy like Bicks who’s been around for a while that he has to go down,” coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune. “But it’s a business move. … I don’t think he was happy. When he went on waivers he knew this day could happen.”
Dano, who recorded 21 points in 35 appearances with the Columbus Bluejackets last season, featured on the Hawks third line Monday with former IceHogs Tanner Kero and Ryan Hartman.
Rockford will head back out on the road with a Friday game against the surprisingly struggling Grand Rapids Griffins. The IceHogs will then trek back home the following night for a Saturday game against the Milwaukee Admirals.
Photo: Goaltender Mark Visentin earned a shutout in his second start with Rockford, earning the first star for making 38 saves Sunday against the Iowa Wild. | Todd Reicher