By Todd Reicher
With only one game on the schedule this week, and the Milwaukee Admirals losing over the weekend, the Rockford IceHogs had the opportunity to take over first place in the Division with a Sunday win over the Iowa Wild.
Despite holding the worst record in the league this season, the Wild have been playing inspired hockey lately, and earned a win over the IceHogs recently, as well as beating the Admirals the night before.
The Wild came out of the gates hard, and wound up tallying the first goal of the game on a redirected shot from Jordan Schroeder. The power play goal scored at 4:37 of the opening frame, came 1:02 into the man advantage, putting the Wild up early 1-0.
Rockford answered on their first power play attempt with P.C. Labrie scoring his 10th of the season at 9:32 of the period to even things up at 1-1. Rockford’s goal came at almost the exact same time into the power play, 1:03. Ryan Hartman and Ville Pokka were credited with the assists on the tying goal. The assist by Pokka gave him points in four straight games.
Early in the second frame, Ryan Haggerty gave Rockford their first lead of the game. Haggerty lifted a nice backhand over Leland Irving for his fourth of the season, assisted by Jake Dowell and Kiril Gotovets.
Rockford would extend their lead to 3-1 at 16:14 of the period with a marker from Chris DeSousa. The rookie’s fourth goal of the season, assisted by Pokka and Daniel Paille, gave Rockford a cushion going into the final 20 minutes.
Iowa put 30 goals on Michael Leighton in the first 40 minutes, but the veteran only allowed the one power play goal in the first. On the flip side, Irving allowed three Rockford goals on 25 shots.
The third period was a different game as Rockford locked the game down, holding the Wild to only four shots on net while amassing six of their own.
With the win, Leighton upped his record to 17-4-3 and a 2.33 goals-against-average to go along with a .925 save percentage. The stats were good enough to earn Leighton 2016 All-Star honors along with Hartman.
Rockford will now begin a stretch of eight straight home games, starting with a home game tonight against the Chicago Wolves. The IceHogs next two home games will be the first time they have hosted the newest teams to the league: the San Jose Barracuda on Friday and the Stockton Heat on Saturday.
Rockford will then host the Lake Erie Monsters on Monday with an early 1 p.m. game.