By Todd Reicher
After a rocky week 12, the IceHogs earned a 2-1 record against rivals Chicago and Milwaukee.
Rockford’s first Divisional meeting of the week was on Wednesday, December 30 against the Chicago Wolves.
Rockford jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. It was the first time in six games that Rockford tallied the first goal.
Garrett Ross started the scoring with his fifth of the year, assisted by Vinnie Hinostroza and Jeremy Morin.
Two and one half minutes later, Hinostroza potted his third goal of the season, assisted by Morin and Ville Pokka to put Rockford up 2-0.
The second period started out the same way the first period ended – with Rockford putting points on the board. Ryan Haggerty, returning to the lineup after missing two months with an injury, scored his second goal of the season at 2:16 of the middle frame, extending Rockford’s lead to 3-0 and signaling the end of goaltender Pheonix Copley.
Chicago finally got on the board with 2:41 left in the second frame when Danny Kristo slid the puck past Mark Visentin, who was in for injured Michael Leighton, to cut the lead to 3-1.
With Rockford holding a 3-1 lead, Haggerty gave Rockford a little more cushion with his second of the game 5:06 into the final frame. Marko Dano dished to Jake Dowell who charged hard to the net and then fed Haggerty on the left side of the net for the quick goal, giving Rockford their second three-goal lead of the game.
Midway through the third period, Kristo struck once again to cut the lead again for the Wolves.
Less than 90 seconds later, Dowell finished up the Gordie Howe hat trick by scoring his seventh goal of the season with another hard-grinding offensive sequence. Haggerty earned his third point of the night with the primary assist and Dano tallied his second of the night with a secondary assist.
Three days later, Rockford traveled to Chicago to face the Wolves where Chicago would get their revenge to the tune of a 2-0 shutout win.
Both Visentin and Jordan Binnington played exceptionally well, stopping all shots faced in the first two periods, with Rockford holding a 23-15 shot advantage.
Zach O’Brien finally broke the scoreless tie at with 9:16 left in the game to take a 1-0 lead.
Shortly after, Chicago committed two penalties; an interference penalty at 11:37 and then 33 seconds later a double-minor for high-sticking, giving Rockford almost two minutes of 5-on-3 play.
Unfortunately for Rockford, the IceHogs could not get a shot past Binnington as the Wolves killed off both penalties.
With Visentin on the bench, Jordan Caron hit the empty net with 55 seconds left in the game to solidify a Chicago win.
The following night, Rockford came back home to host the Admirals. After Rockford lit up the Ads 6-2 back on December 18, the Ads have defeated Rockford twice since then with a 6-2 thumping of their own along with a 2-1 shootout victory.
Milwaukee came out extremely flat as Rockford bust out of the gates outshooting the Ads 7-0 at the midway point of the period.
Hinostroza got Rockford on the board first 10:40 into the game, assisted by Pokka and Tanner Kero.
Adam Payerl evened up the score on Milwaukee’s third shot of the game as Milwaukee started to gain momentum. The Ads almost caught up to Rockford in shots, with Rockford finishing up the period holding a 16-11 advantage.
P.C. Labrie tallied a rare home power play goal for Rockford 8:18 into the second period to give Rockford their second lead of the game. The redirected goal was assisted by Pokka and Mark McNeill.
Towards the end of the second period, Matt White was awarded a penalty shot as he was tripped on his way in to the Rockford goal while on a breakaway attempt. White made good on his attempt as he whipped a wrister from the hash marks on Leighton, who was taken by surprise on the quick shot.
After a fast and furious 40 minutes, both teams played very conservatively with Rockford putting up eight shots compared to the Ads six. Neither team managed a goal and we would head to extra hockey.
At the 1:08 mark of overtime, Rockford would score the deciding goal, courtesy of Labrie and Pokka.
An Ads defender fell to the ice right at their attacking blueline as Pokka pressured the defender. Pokka was all alone and picked up the puck and raced in alone on goaltender Marek Mazanec. Pokka tried to shoot five-hole, which almost worked as the puck slid behind Mazanec. Alertly, Labrie rushed in and flipped the loose puck into the back of the net for the game-winning goal, 3-2.
Rockford has a full week off with their next game on Sunday against the Iowa Wild in Iowa. After that, the ‘Hogs will have a stretch of eight straight home games, with the last home game on Friday, January 29 against the Wolves.