By Todd Reicher
The start of week five saw Rockford end their four game road streak with a shutout loss against the Grand Rapids Griffins, 3-0.
As has been the trend in the past few weeks, Rockford’s lack of offensive production continues to hurt the squad as their defense keeps the team in the game.
Louis-Marc Aubry tallied the first goal of the contest for the Griffins with 2:10 remaining in the first frame to put Grand Rapids up by one at the end of the first 20 with Rockford holding a slight edge in shots at 13-11.
The second period would show the Griffins gaining the shot lead and also adding to their score with a power play marker at 11:58 by Kyle Criscuolo.
Grand Rapids shut down Rockford in the final period only allow four shots on goal while earning 14 of their own to finish the shot count at 42-30, and adding a final goal with 4:22 remaining in the contest.
Mac Carruth played well in net, stopping 39 of the 42 shots for the loss. Carruth has not seen much net time this season with Lars Johansson taking a majority of the starts for Rockford.
Rockford headed back to the BMO on Saturday to host the Charlotte Checkers, who shut out Rockford last week in Charlotte, and allowed only one goal in two contests. This time, it would be Rockford blanking their opponent by a 3-0 margin with Brandon Mashinter providing all of the offense for Rockford. The aforementioned Johansson would earn his first AHL shutout while facing the AHL’s all-time shutout leader, and former IceHogs backstop, Michael Leighton.
Mashinter’s first goal came on a power play late in the first period with assists from Sam Carrick and Viktor Svedberg. Rockford edged Charlotte in shots by a 13-12 margin in the first period.
After having troubles keeping the opposition off the scoreboard in the second, Rockford blanked Charlotte in the sandwich stanza and doubled the Checkers on shots 14-7. Mashinter would tack on his second goal of the game at 7:43 after a nifty pass from Nolan Valleau. Mashinter would skate towards the left slot, unguarded, and Valleau found him wide open for a tap-in goal.
Mashinter would seal the natural hat trick goal with 1:01 remaining in regulation. 21 seconds after leaving the box from a hooking penalty, Mashinter hovered around center ice while Carrick took possession of the puck in the defensive zone. The forward found Mashinter making his way to the offensive zone, and “Monster Mash” put the puck into the empty net vacated by Leighton to put a bow on a 3-0 victory.
The following night Rockford hosted the Ontario Reign for the first time in AHL history. The Reign, AHL team for the L.A. Kings, came into the game with a 4-4-3 record looking to earn a second straight road win after beating Iowa the previous night.
Momentum shifted twice during the period with Rockford carrying the opening portion of the load. At one point the IceHogs were up in shots 8-1 around the midpoint of the period. The Reign clamed momentum shortly after and surpassed Rockford in shots 10-9 before Rockford tied the shots at 10-10 before the period expired.
Ten-year AHL veteran T.J. Hensick tallied the first goal of the game with 40 seconds remaining in the period for a 1-0 lead.
Hensick would capitalize again in the second period with a snipe into the top-left corner behind Johansson to give the Reign a 2-0 lead. The shot, fired from the right circle in transition, rang iron before bouncing into the net.
Kyle Baun would bring Rockford to within one very early in the third period with his second goal of the season. P.C. Labrie worked hard in the offensive zone and put a shot on the right side of the net, which was blocked away by goaltender Anders Lindback. The puck squeezed out to the open left side of the net where Baun pounced on the rubber and slapped it home.
Rockford’s hopes of a comeback were dashed with just under six minutes left in play. A defensive breakdown allowed Jonny Brodzinski to deposit his third of the season, giving Ontario a 3-1 lead late.
With Johansson on the bench, Rockford was unable to tally the equalizer and the Reign took home their first victory at the BMO.
Rockford gets a slight reprieve this week with only two games on the schedule for Week 6, including a Saturday game hosting the Texas Stars. Saturday’s game will be the first of three straight home games where Rockford will also face the Cleveland Monsters and Milwaukee Admirals.