By Todd Reicher
Despite being plagued with injuries on their forward lines, the Rockford IceHogs managed to finish week 7 with a 1-1-1 record, earning three points. Rockford’s point streak did stop at 10 games, but the IceHogs picked back up and earned points against Milwaukee and Lake Erie. As it stands now, Rockford is without the services of forwards Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Mike Liambas, Vince Hinostroza, Kyle Baun and Ryan Haggerty. In addition, Tanner Kero, Marko Dano and Brandon Mashinter are currently on recall with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rockford’s first game of the week was on the road in Grand Rapids, Michigan against the Griffins. The Red Wings affiliate has been struggling thus far this season, but has been playing with renewed energy lately, as the IceHogs found out, falling 3-2 for their first regulation loss in 11 games.
After a scoreless first period, the Griffins tallied two second period goals to get the jump on Rockford.
Before the period expired, Bryan Bickell tallied his fourth marker of the season with 12 seconds remaining to cut the lead in half.
Rockford knotted the score just shy of the midway point of the third frame when Jake Dowell potted his first tally of the season. The veteran forward was assisted by Nolan Valleau and P.C. Labrie on the game-tying tally.
But just like that, 34 seconds later, the Griffins reclaimed the lead with a goal from Robbie Russo to put the Griffins ahead 3-2.
The IceHogs were unable to net the equalizer as the Griffins snapped Rockford’s point streak at 10 games.
Two days later, the IceHogs bussed to Milwaukee for a Friday meeting with the Admirals. Rockford faced the Ads 13 days prior, and a costly Too Many Men penalty in the overtime session cost Rockford the game.
This time, both teams played out to a shootout where Marek Mazanec outlasted Mark Visentin 2-0 in the skills competition, giving Milwaukee a 2-1 win.
Both goaltenders played flawless hockey through the first 40 minutes of the game, with each backstop perfect through two periods, with Mazanec stopping 16 and Visentin stopping 17.
The shutout was halted at 5:04 of the third with Frederick Gaudreau earning his fourth goal of the season.
Ryan Hartman tied the game with 3:05 left in regulation with his fifth of the season to force an overtime.
Another Too Many Men penalty hit Rockford 2:00 into the session, but the IceHogs fought off the minor and kept the game tied. Milwaukee trumped the ‘Hogs in shots in the extra session 7-1, but Visentin stood tall and kept the game tied.
The shootout failed for Rockford when Erik Gustaffson and Garrett Ross both failed to convert on their chances, and Milwaukee tallied on both, ending the shootout at 2-0 giving the Ads the extra point.
On Sunday, Rockford returned home to face the Lake Erie Monsters, with the Stanley Cup in town as the special guest. In another defensive game, it was Rockford coming out ahead 3-1 for the victory.
With 14 shots on goal for each team in the first period, it was Rockford to get on the board first. Dane Walters, recently recalled from the Indy Fuel due to the rash of injuries in Rockford, scored his first of the season on a gritty goal, assisted by Gustaffson and Josh Brittain. The score, with 3:05 left in the period, marked the first point for Brittain in two games with Rockford this year.
After a scoreless second period, it was Dowell converting shorthanded for Rockford to get the all-important second goal to put the ‘Hogs up 2-0. Daniel Paille earned his first assist and point of the season for Rockford with a nice forecheck behind the net to force a turnover. Paille found Dowell out front and the center earned his second goal of the week.
Derek DeBlois spoiled Michael Leighton’s bid for a shutout at 8:49 of the final period to cut Rockford’s lead in half to 2-1.
With the net empty, Hartman scored his second goal of the week with an empty net, unassisted tally with 1:06 remaining in the game to secure Rockford’s 3-1 victory. The win put Rockford back on to a two game point streak and gave them a record of 1-1-1 in week 7, keeping them competitive in the tight Midwest Division.
The IceHogs will play another three games this week with two home games. The first game is on Wednesday against the San Antonio Rampage, followed by a Friday game against the Chicago Wolves.
The following day the IceHogs head back up to Milwaukee to face the Admirals for the second time in a week. The game against Milwaukee is the first of five straight road games for Rockford before they head down to Texas for a stretch of four games in seven days.