By Todd Reicher
After a successful trip through the state of Texas, the IceHogs split a pair of weekend games in week 10.
Friday’s game was a matchup against the struggling Iowa Wild. Prior to the game, Rockford held a 5-0 season head-to-head record against their adjacent-state rivals, and after the game that record would jump to 6-0.
In a low-scoring game, it was the IceHogs trumping the Wild 2-1 in a goaltenders’ duel. Garrett Ross continued to produce with his fourth goal of the season during Rockford’s second power play opportunity of the game. The marker occurred when Iowa’s captain, Maxime Fortunus was called for his second penalty of the first period, this one a tripping minor.
The IceHogs dominated the first period, outshooting the Wild 16-6, but Iowa’s Leland Irving kept the Wild in the game, only allowing the one power play goal.
Period two was more of the same with Rockford holding a 15-5 shot advantage, but this time Irving wouldn’t allow a goal, keeping the game at 1-0 after 40 minutes, despite the lopsided 31-11 shot advantage.
Jake Dowell continued to impress with his offensive production, scoring his sixth goal of the season 7:32 into the third period. Ross was credited with the primary assist, when his shot was blocked away by Irving right to Dowell on the opposite side of the net.
Rockford’s Mark Visentin wouldn’t be tested until midway through the third period when Iowa doubled their entire game output, firing 12 shots on Visentin. Rockford’s only penalty, a hooking call on Kiril Gotovets, allowed the Wild to few a few extra shots on net, but the Rockford defense killed off the penalty.
Vizser’s bid for a shutout was broken with 8:42 remaining in the game when Colton Beck tallied his first goal of the season. The score came less than one minute after killing off the penalty.
Iowa was unable to tally the game-tying goal as Rockford took a 2-1 victory for their fifth straight win.
The following night, the red-hot Grand Rapids Griffins, winners of nine straight, came into town. Rockford fared well against the Griffins early in the season, but for the third season in a row, the Griffins fired off a long winning streak after starting out extremely slow.
Saturday’s game would also mark the annual Teddy Bear Toss, where fans can throw their Teddy Bears on the ice after Rockford scores their first goal. The bears will be given out to children at local area hospitals by the Rockford IceHogs players and staff.
For the first two periods of Saturday’s game, you could see two of the hottest teams play a tight, focused game.
Grand Rapids tallied the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 rush. Anthony Mantha came down the ice with Andreas Athanasiou against Erik Gustafsson, and Athanasiou buried the feed past Michael Leighton from Mantha for the 1-0 lead 7:59 into the first period.
Rockford’s Jeremy Morin fired a short-handed goal past Jared Coreau for his sixth of the season at 15:33 to knot the game at 1-1. Dowell was credited with the primary assist, moving his point streak to six games.
The first two periods were about as even as could be, with Rockford leading in shots 25-24, and the score tied at 1-1. Rockford was called for four penalties, while the Griffins were called for three, but neither team was able to capitalize on the advantage.
Each team did have other scoring opportunities, but either the crossbar blocked a shot or in the case of Tanner Kero, a wide open net was missed.
Tyler Bertuzzi broke the tie 4:19 into the third period when Rockford couldn’t clear the puck out of the zone.
That lead was extended to 3-1 with an Eric Tangradi goal at 11:57.
For the remaining part of the game, it appeared Rockford was trying too hard to force a goal in transition and were unable to get a play setup in the offensive zone.
Leighton was sent to the bench for the extra attacker, but Mantha threw a 200 foot shot into the empty net with 2:09 left in the game as the Griffins beat the IceHogs for the second consecutive Teddy Bear Toss game. At least the IceHogs scored this year as the Griffins shut out Rockford last year 4-0.
Rockford will play three games in four days this weekend, with a rare Monday night game as their only home game. Friday, Rockford will travel up to Milwaukee for a meeting with the Admirals. Friday’s game will be the first of three meetings in four games for both teams.
The following night, Rockford will drive down I-90 to face the Chicago Wolves before taking Sunday off. Monday the Ads come to town for a 7 p.m. Monday game.