By Todd Reicher
It was bound to happen sooner or later, and for the IceHogs, it couldn’t come soon enough. Rockford snapped their eight-game winless streak on the road with a gutsy 1-0 win against the Chicago Wolves at the Allstate Arena on Wednesday, March 30. The win closed out the season series against the Wolves with Rockford taking the series with a 7-2-3 record.
The game was scoreless after the first 40 minutes with Rockford holding a 28-18 shot advantage, but both starting goaltenders, Jordan Binnington for Chicago and Mac Carruth for Rockford, stopped all shots faced.
It wasn’t until Rockford’s fifth and final power play of the game that a goal was scored, courtesy of Ryan Haggerty, assisted by Vinnie Hinostroza and Ville Pokka with 5:58 remaining in the game.
Carruth stopped five third-period Chicago shots to earn his second career shutout, and the first of this season.
Two days later, Rockford returned home for the first of two straight home games. The San Antonio Rampage came to town, desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Rockford put the first point on the board with a P.C. Labrie goal at 18:13 of the first period to cap the scoring after 20 minutes of play. Both teams fired 11 shots on net, with Carruth stopping all 11 and Reto Berra stopping 10 of 11.
San Antonio tied it up 7:41 into the second period, but Chris Desousa put Rockford right back out in front 1:22 later with a shorthanded tally.
The Rampage scored a late goal, with 21 seconds left in the period to even the score again, giving San Antonio some momentum going into the third.
That momentum swing impacted Rockford as the remainder of the game was all San Antonio. Three Rampage goals in the first 10 minutes of the third period was all they needed to take a commanding 5-2 lead. A 17-7 shots-on-goal advantage in the final 20 minutes showed how much the Rampage wanted the win, and Rockford was unable to halt the momentum which was pulled from them late in the second.
Rockford remained home the next evening for the last home meeting against the Iowa Wild.
Only 75 seconds into the game, and our first lead was claimed, unfortunately, by the Wild.
With under five minutes remaining in the period, Labrie earned his second goal in as many games to even things up at 1-1 at the end of the period.
At 5:50 into the second, Rockford took their first lead of the game with a power play marker from Pokka.
Two goals in under four minutes, both shots from the blue line, gave Iowa a 3-2 lead late in the second period.
With captain Jake Dowell in the box, Mark McNeill scored Rockford’s second shorthanded goal in as many games with 1:03 remaining in the second period.
After Rockford dominated shots in the first two periods, 25-15, the Wild stormed out in the third to an 11-6 advantage, however, neither team was able to find the back of the net as the game went to overtime.
A few seconds shy of the midway point of overtime, Drew MacIntyre let out a strong rebound to the open side of the net where Tyson Strachan was stationed. The defenseman fired the puck past MacIntyre for the OT game-winner.
Despite the overtime loss, Rockford picked up three points, putting them closer to a playoff spot. As of Monday, April 6, Rockford needs three points in their next seven games to earn a spot in the playoffs. That number will change if Rockford can defeat the Charlotte Checkers in one of the next two games.
Rockford heads down to Charlotte for Tuesday (results unavailable by press time) and Wednesday games this week, and then fly to Manitoba for two games against the Moose on Saturday and Sunday.
The playoff race is still tight, with Rockford in fourth place in the Central Division with a .616 point percentage and 85 points. Tied for second are the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Lake Erie Monsters with 88 points and a .629 point percentage. However, the IceHogs have one game in hand on both the Monsters and Griffins. Milwaukee sits atop the standings with 91 points and a .659 percentage, along with riding an eight-game point streak.