By Todd Reicher
After falling twice on the road to open the season, the Rockford IceHogs rattled off four straight wins before dropping the final two of the weekend.
In the first of 12 divisional games against the Chicago Wolves, and the first of a home-and-home series, Rockford came out with a 3-2 victory.
In a frantic rush in front of the goal, Rockford’s Spencer Abbott potted his third goal of the season with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. As the puck popped out from a Ville Pokka shot, Abbott happened to find the puck in the left side of the slot and fired it home.
Early in the second, Kenny Agostino scored his third of the season at 1:51 to even up the score 1-1.
At 9:05 into the second period, Pokka took Rockford’s first penalty of the game, but the tide turned when Cameron Schilling scored on a shorthanded rush. Mark McNeill lead the rush down the ice, and as the puck floated in the air, Schilling batted it down in mid-air behind Jordan Binnington to give the ‘Hogs their second lead of the game, 2-1.
Less than two minutes later it was Chicago knotting up the game at 2-2 with a Magnus Paajarvi power play goal.
IceHogs captain Jake Dowell capped the second period scoring with his first of the season with a power-play marker of their own at 18:22. Schilling earned his second point of the night with the primary assist. Rockford outshot the Wolves 27-20 after the first two periods.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the final frame and Rockford came away with the win – their fourth straight.
The following night Rockford headed down the highway to the Allstate Arena for the backend of the home-and-home.
Erik Gustafsson scored his first of the season as the defenseman lit the lamp 3:38 into the game to give Rockford an early 1-0 lead.
The Wolves charged right back with a goal 1:31 later when Brad Hunt scored his second of the season in the first of five straight Chicago goals. The Wolves would score two goals in the first 1:43 of the second, which would signal the end of Mac Carruth for the evening.
Down 5-1 to start the third, Rockford’s Tanner Kero tallied his second of the season 77 seconds into the period to give Rockford a glimmer of hope.
Gustafsson would tally his second of the night at 6:50 to cut the lead to 5-3 with plenty of time left in the game.
The Wolves put a huge dent in Rockford’s hopes when Brett Sterling scored at 15:15 to give Chicago a 6-3 lead. Chicago would score their second consecutive power play goal 1:20 later to seal the game with a 7-3 win.
Sunday, Rockford would play their second set of three games in three days with a 4:00 game against the Milwaukee Admirals. Rockford beat the Ads in a shootout in their other meeting this season, but this time a terrible second frame would doom Rockford.
Both teams traded first period goals, both sets coming in close sequences of each other. Matt White opened the scoring for Milwaukee at 4:21 which was answered by McNeill at 5:24 to even things up at 1-1.
Rockford claimed their first lead of the game at exactly 11:00 into the period with a Martin Lundberg goal, which was answered 32 seconds later by Pontus Aberg of the Ads.
Once again, it was four straight goals to put the opponent ahead by a good margin. 25 seconds into the period Vladislav Kamenev put Milwaukee ahead, and then a Trevor Smith goal at 8:33 and White’s second of the game at 13:56 put Milwaukee up 5-2.
Abbott cut the lead to 5-3 with his team-leading fourth of the season, which was quickly answered by Kamenev 43 seconds later.
An empty net goal by former IceHogs forward Mike Liambas at 18:29 of the third period would seal a second straight 7-3 loss for Rockford.
The ‘Hogs went back on the road for four straight games starting with a Wednesday match against the Charlotte Checkers and former IceHogs goaltender Michael Leighton, that Rockford dropped 4-0. The team stays in Charlotte for a second straight game on Thursday.
Rockford then heads to Iowa on Sunday for a game against the Wild to wrap up week 4.
Rockford will return home from their road trip on Saturday, Nov. 12 to host the Ontario Reign.