By Todd Reicher
After stumbling out of the starting gates with two straight road losses to the reigning Calder Cup champions, the Rockford IceHogs pulled off three straight wins to jump into the third place slot behind the Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins – two teams they defeated in week two.
Friday’s game took place in Grand Rapids against the Griffins, who were undefeated up until this point.
After an evenly-matched, and scoreless first period, Spencer Abbott scored on Rockford’s first power-play opportunity of the evening, just 10 seconds into the man advantage.
Later in the period, Rockford would kill off their third penalty of the game, putting them at a perfect three-for-three for the night.
Early in the third period, Rockford was awarded their second power play chance of the evening, and this time it was Martin Lundberg notching his first professional goal with 10 seconds left on the advantage to give Rockford that important second goal, increasing their lead to 2-0.
Former first-round pick Anthony Mantha evened things up just over two minutes later notching his sixth goal of the young season to close the gap to a single goal.
With Griffins backstop Jared Coreau on the bench for the extra attacker, the Griffins tried to tie things up late, but Lars Johansson fought off the attack and Rockford skated away with an impressive 2-1 win over the Griffins.
The following night, Rockford headed home for the first home game of the regular season against the undefeated Milwaukee Admirals.
Rockford really controlled the pace early, putting six shots on net before Milwaukee was able to float one in on Lundberg five minutes into the contest. Former IceHogs netminder Mark Visentin stopped all 14 first period shots he faced and Johansson stopped all six in a scoreless 20 minutes.
For the second game in a row, Rockford tallied first when Mark McNeill slipped behind the defense and got in alone on Visentin for his first marker of the campaign.
Just under eight minutes later, Carl Dahlstrom put his first goal behind the net with a blast from the point to give Rockford a 2-0 lead. In addition, Rockford was now outshooting Milwaukee 26-11 and appeared to have solid control of the game.
Just 21 seconds later, however, a goal-mouth scrum cut Rockford’s lead to 2-1 with a Felix Gerard tally.
Less than a minute later, the score was tied once again when Matt White found a wide open net when he popped in his first of the year.
That was all the scoring we would see for the regulation, and overtime sessions, as the game went to a shootout.
Spencer Abbott made good on the first attempt, and White was held scoreless with a nice poke-check from Johanssen.
After Brandon Mashinter was stopped and Anthony Richard failed to convert, McNeill sealed the game with a quick wrister to finish off the contest and give Rockford the extra point, 3-2 in a shootout.
The following night, Rockford would play their third game in three days, and their third of the season against the Cleveland Monsters.
Similar to the previous night, Rockford controlled play and came out firing against the Monsters.
Kyle Baun was the first player to tally as Rockford scored the first goal for the third straight game at the 9:00 mark with a power play goal.
Exactly 10 minutes later, Lundberg would pot his second goal of the year and Baun would pick up his second point of the night.
A second power play conversion, this time from Abbott, would give Rockford a commanding 3-0 lead with the ‘Hogs once again controlling the pace.
With time winding down in the period, Cleveland tallied two goals in a span of 100 seconds to close the gap to 3-2. Cody Goloubef made a great feed when he pulled goaltender Mac Carruth way outside of the net to his left, and no one picked up Daniel Zaar who was wide open in the slot to poke the puck into the open net.
Mashinter would score his first of the season with a redirected goal 6:53 in the third to once again pull Rockford up by two.
The IceHogs played conservative hockey for the remainder of the game, and with Brad Thiessen on the bench, Dahlstrom fired a 200-foot shot into the open net to seal a 5-2 win for Rockford.
Keys for the week
The good news is that all lines are contributing for the ‘Hogs with three different lines scoring.
Man advantage still producing as Rockford has scored four power play goals in three games this week.
Rookie goaltender Johanssen is showing why he was picked up out of Europe by the Chicago Blackhawks with his solid play thus far. After earning his second win in three starts this season, Johanssen shows a .944 save percentage and a 1.64 goals against average.
The IceHogs will play three games again this week with two home games sandwiching a Saturday showdown against the Chicago Wolves. Friday, Rockford will host the Chicago Wolves for the first game of the home-and-home, and Sunday the ‘Hogs will host the Admirals for the second time this season.