By Todd Reicher
Despite going winless in Lake Erie, the IceHogs managed to snag three points in three games during week 21.
After a 6-4 win in Milwaukee to take sole possession of first place in the Division, the IceHogs headed to Cleveland, Ohio for a weekend series against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Monsters are hot on the trail of Rockford, going 5-1-1-1 in their past eight.
Lake Erie put the first two points on the board in a span of 1:44. A power play goal from former IceHogs skater Alex Broadhurst, followed by a shorthanded goal off the stick of many Malhotra put the IceHogs in an early 2-0 hole.
Vinnie Hinostroza cut the lead in half just over three minutes later with an unassisted marker to bring the score to 2-1 after 20 minutes of play.
Two additional quick strikes in the opening minute of the second period gave the Monsters a commanding 4-1 lead, signaling the end of Michael Leighton. Although most of the goals were caused from defensive breakdowns, coach Ted Dent was looking for something to spark the IceHogs.
Dent got the spark he was looking for when Tanner Kero scored his 15th of the season 2:44 after the change in net.
At 8:01 of the same period, Ryan Hartman scored an unassisted shorthanded goal to cut the Lake Erie lead to 4-3.
But another late period breakdown put the Monsters back up by a pair with 1:06 left in the middle frame.
Kero scored his second of the game just after the midway point of the third to make the game interesting again with a power play tally.
Despite sending Mac Carruth off for an extra attacker, the IceHogs were unable to score the equalizing goal, giving Lake Erie a 5-4 win.
Special Teams hampered Rockford once again, giving up one power play goal on eight chances, and allowing a shorthanded goal.
The following night both teams reacquainted for the second game of the weekend series.
Saturday’s game started ominously with another shorthanded Lake Erie goal 11:51 into the game.
It wasn’t until 4:51 of the second period when the next goal was scored – a Mark McNeill wrist shot to even the score at 1-1.
The tie lasted less than five minutes when Oliver Bjorkstrand scored on the power play to put the Monsters ahead once again.
Hartman knotted the game again just shy of the midway point in the third with his 14th goal of the season.
The score remained tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation, giving Rockford at least one point in the standings.
At 4:31 of the extra session, Lake Erie ended it when Daniel Zarr potted his 15th of the season, giving Lake Erie the second point and the win.
The trade deadline also came and went over this past weekend, with the IceHogs and their parent club, the Chicago Blackhawks seeing some changes.
First off, goaltender Mac Carruth was signed to a one-year NHL deal at the beginning of the week. Most likely due to backup Mark Visentin and his recent injury.
The first big Domino to fall was Chicago landing Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Marko Dano, a 2016 first round pick and a conditional 2018 third round pick. The Blackhawks also received defenseman Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser, both whom will report to the IceHogs.
Harrison is a veteran of 372 NHL games and 426 AHL games, and has spent the last six years playing for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Jets in the NHL. The 33-year old veteran should give Rockford, and the Blackhawks, defensive depth for the playoff push.
Fraser shows over 300 games of professional-level experience, including 91 NHL games. Fraser played 60 NHL games last season, split between Edmonton and Boston combining for eight goals and four assists.
Secondly, recently reassigned veteran Rob Scuderi was exchanged for another veteran defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff. A 33-year old veteran of over 850 NHL games, Ehrhoff should also give Chicago/Rockford some depth for a playoff run.
Phillip Danault was shipped to the Montreal Canadiens along with a second round pick in the 2018 draft for Thomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, giving Chicago some lower line depth down the stretch.
IceHogs defenseman Dennis Robertson was moved back to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for veteran goaltender Drew MacIntyre.
The Blackhawks picked up another veteran winger in Tim Jackman, along with a seventh round pick, in exchange for prospect Corey Tropp, who was loaned out to the Albany Devils by the Blackhawks. Jackman has been playing for the Anaheim Ducks affiliate San Diego Gulls for 22 games this season.
Rockford finishes up their five game road swing with a Wednesday night meeting against the Grand Rapids Griffins, winners of five straight. The IceHogs then return home for another weekend series against the Lake Erie Monsters with a Saturday game at 7 p.m. and a Sunday game at 4 p.m.
The IceHogs will face Milwaukee for the 11th time this season the following Tuesday with a 7 p.m. matchup before leaving for Charlotte the following weekend.