By Todd Reicher
In a hard-fought contest, the defending Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters (née Lake Erie) spoiled the IceHogs’ season opener with a 2-1 victory.
Rockford came out with all the energy, flying up and down the ice, making sharp, crisp passes and putting shot after shot on the net. Midway through the period, Rockford was up early on the shot count, although nothing had found the back of the net. The Monsters weathered the storm and eventually caught up to, and surpassed Rockford on the shot count, finishing with a 10-6 advantage. The key factor was neither team found the back of the net.
Rockford was awarded the first power play at 10:30 when the Monsters were called for Too Many Men on the Ice. Cleveland held the ‘Hogs off the board as the score remained 0-0.
Both teams had some excellent chances throughout the first two periods, but Rockford’s newest netminder Lars Johanssen and the Monsters Anton Forsberg both made exceptional saves, keeping each team in the game.
The score finally changed when Sonny Milano scored a power-play marker at 12:46 of the second to put the Monsters up 1-0.
Rockford’s biggest miscue of the night turned out to cost them the game. With only 25 seconds expired in the third, former IceHogs forward Alex Broadhurst tallied his first goal of the season to give the Monsters a big 2-0 lead.
The IceHogs finally managed to tally a goal with time winding down in the final minutes. With 2:24 left in the game, Tanner Kero gave the IceHogs a glimmer of hope with his first goal of the season. Rockford had a better chance with 52 seconds left in the game when Blake Siebenaler was called for hooking, giving Rockford a 6-on-4 chance for the remainder of the game. The ‘Hogs were unable to tally the equalizer and fell 2-1.
Cleveland outshot the ‘Hogs 28-25 but Johanssen had a very good showing in his first outing for Rockford.
The following night, both teams met for the second game of the weekend series.
Cleveland got on the board quickly: just 46 seconds into the contest as Aaron Palushaj tallied his first marker of the season.
Rockford composed themselves rather quickly, and wound up outshooting the Monsters 11-7 but Forsberg played just as well as the previous night and stopped all 11 shots he faced.
The second period was where Cleveland capitalized on the Rockford errors. Despite earning only six shots on goal, the Monsters tallied two goals, one which was shorthanded. T.J. Tynan scored the shorthanded goal 21 seconds after they were put on the penalty kill, and Nick Moutrey scored his first of the year with five minutes left in the second give the Monsters a commanding 3-0 lead.
Fifth-year player Jeremy Langlois, who spent the past two seasons with the San Jose Sharks organization, earned Rockford’s first goal of the evening with a shorthanded tally 18:27 into the second. This was the momentum the ‘Hogs were looking for as they were now heading into the third only down by two.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t in the cards for Rockford as the third period was all Cleveland as the Monsters held Rockford to only five shots on goal, which sealed a 3-1 victory.
You can certainly see the potential for the group in Rockford, and once they begin to gel, the team will start putting up wins. This was certainly a game the team could have won, but the small mistakes gave Cleveland two golden opportunities, which they capitalized upon. The Monsters also clichéd down on the defensive side when it counted, and was able to frequently clear pucks from the defensive zone.
Rockford will have one more road game this week, a Friday tilt against the Grand Rapids Griffins, before heading home for the season opener at the BMO Harris Bank Center this Saturday to host the Milwaukee Admirals. Rockford must weather the storm again on Sunday as the Monsters return for a 4 p.m. game.