By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs turned things around this week with a pair of wins – one on the road and one at home.
Wednesday, November 16 saw the IceHogs travel to Iowa to face the Wild who beat Rockford earlier this month in overtime. Rockford avenged the loss with a 3-1 win, thanks to their special teams play.
One of the IceHogs nemesis, Teemu Pulkkinen, scored the game’s first goal with a power play blast at 3:28 of the opening period.
The defensemen for Rockford continued to put up points for the ‘Hogs as Ville Pokka got in close to even the score at 1-1 at 11:22. Pokka’s power play marker came 29 seconds into the advantage – Rockford’s first of the game.
Rockford would go two-for-two on the man advantage early in the second with Tanner Kero scoring his third of the season to give Rockford their first lead of the game. Pokka would add his second point of the game with the secondary assist on the go-ahead goal.
A bench minor for too many men on the ice by Rockford would be killed off, keeping the score 2-1 Rockford past the halfway point.
Kurtis Gabriel would get caught holding at 17:02, giving Rockford another power play chance late in the second. Once again, Rockford would convert and Maxime Fortunus would go off for hooking at the same time of the Sam Carrick goal to put Rockford up 3-1.
The third period would get feisty at the midway point with P.C. Labrie tangling with Mike Weber, who tussled earlier with Brandon Mashinter. Weber was sent off for a 10-minute misconduct for his second fight of the game, and then Luke Johnson would dance with Nick Seeler three minutes later.
Rockford would earn two more penalties late in the game, but Rockford’s defense would stop the Wild as Rockford held on to a 3-1 win. Lars Johansson, who appears to have taken the reigns of starting goaltender for Rockford, stopped 30 of 31 shots.
Saturday Rockford hosted the Texas Stars for their first meeting of the season.
A high-flying first period saw a combined 30 shots in the first 20 minutes and a 1-0 IceHogs lead.
Erik Gustafsson put Rockford ahead with his third goal of the season 7:55 into the game to give Rockford a 1-0 lead. Johanssen, getting his second start of the week, stopped all 16 first period shots he faced while Maxime Lagace stopped 13 of 14 Rockford shots.
The IceHogs defense extended Rockford’s lead to 2-0 with Carl Dahlstrom potting his third goal of the season 2:20 into the second period. Lagace seemed to be fighting the puck in the first two periods, which Rockford took advantage of. Dahlstrom’s shot from between both circles was fed from Labrie and Kyle Baun on the secondary assist.
1:31 later, Texas’ Denis Gurianov scored his second goal of the season on a perfect cross-ice pass from Ludwig Bystrom.
Rockford converted on their second power play of the game at 11:23 of the period to once again give Rockford a two goal lead. The goal came on the first half of a double-minor high-sticking penalty. Mark McNeill carried the puck deep into the offensive zone, and Gustafsson got loose onto the left side of the net and shot the puck over Lagace’s outstretched blocker for his second of the game.
McNeill extended Rockford’s lead to 4-1 at 4:48 of the final period with a shorthanded goal. Captain Jake Dowell carried the puck deep behind the Stars net and found McNeill streaking towards the center of the offensive zone. McNeill sent a shot in on net which surprised Lagace, giving the center his third goal of the year.
However, the speedy Stars turned the game around in a matter of two minutes with two goals of their own to cut the Rockford lead to 4-3.
Cole Ully scored his sixth of the year at 5:27 of the period and Brandon DeFazio matched Ully with his sixth of the season 70 seconds later.
With Rockford trying to hold onto the lead and sit on the puck, Texas’ Andrew Bodnarchuk scored his fourth of the season with 2:39 left to complete the comeback and tie the score at 4-4. Texas dominated Rockford in the third period holding an impressive 18-2 shot advantage, and outscoring Rockford 3-1.
Neither team was able to tally a goal on the three-on-three overtime session, sending the game to a shootout. Rockford won their only other shootout game of the season with a win against Milwaukee in week two.
Both shooters scored in the first round with Spencer Abbott scoring first and Brendan Ranford scoring next for Texas.
Martin Lundberg scored with a nifty shot to put Rockford up in the second round with Ully being thwarted by Johansson for Rockford.
McNeill and Travis Morin were unable to convert in the third period as Rockford held on in the shootout to win 5-4.
Rockford will play three games in four days with the first two at home. The IceHogs first game will take place tonight against the Cleveland Monsters and will host the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday. The IceHogs will then head off to Chicago on Saturday to face the Wolves for Rockford’s final game of the week.