By Todd Reicher
The Rockford IceHogs have found their winning ways again, beating the Chicago Wolves for their third straight win, and second-longest winning streak of the season.
Rockford’s battle against Chicago was exactly that, with the last minute of the game ending in a line brawl, and Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington getting ejected and receiving a one-game suspension.
Compared to the rest of the game, period one was uneventful with neither team scoring, and Rockford going 0-for-3 on the powerplay and holding court in shots by a 10-9 margin.
Things picked up in the second period when Chicago scored the first goal of the game – a fluke goal from Vince Dunn, to put Chicago up 1-0. As the puck was fired at the net, it appeared to careen off a Rockford player and make a large rainbow-shaped loop as it floated behind Lars Johansson for the goal.
But Rockford responded quickly, exactly one minute later, as Evan Mosey put a clean shot past starter Pheonix Copley for his first IceHogs goal.
Just 21 seconds later Rockford was enjoying their first lead of the game, courtesy of Sam Carrick. The veteran forward but Copley cleanly off a nice feed from Tyler Barnes, his second of the game, to put Rockford up 2-1 and signal a quick end to Copley.
Binnington came on in relief and was quickly scored upon by Carl Dahlstrom. The defenseman beat Binnington with a quick shot from the right face-off circle to increase Rockford’s lead to 3-1.
The scoring continued for Rockford as their second shot on Binnington was also a score, this time a beauty by Tanner Kero. Kyle Baun carried the puck in on the left wing as Kero raced in hard towards the net. He was neck-and-neck with his defender when Baun lofted the puck towards the open area in front of the net. Kero dove at the puck with his stick fully extended towards the net, which caught enough of the puck to direct it past Binnington for the goal.
As if that wasn’t enough scoring in such a short time period, Chicago’s leading scorer Wade Megan cut Rockford’s lead back down to two goals with his 13th goal of the season just one minute after the Kero score.
Early in the third period Rockford would clamp the gates shut with two more quick succession goals to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
Carrick would score his second of the game with a nice snipe from the right side of the ice at 4:54, and Jake Dowell would be the recipient of a great cross-ice pass by Mosey 1:07 later to cap the scoring.
As time wound down in the game, P.C. Labrie was being escorted off the ice by one of the linesman after a penalty. Labrie skated in the vicinity of Binnington and the two exchanged a few words. Apparently, Binnington caught Labrie with his stick earlier in the period, and Labrie had some choice words regarding the incident. Binnington lunged towards Labrie who in turn grabbed the next guard of Binnington’s mask and took a swing. Before Labrie could attempt a second punch, three Wolves players joined in the fray, and the melee was in full force. Dowell wound up getting into it with Dunn behind the net, and both were escorted off for second altercation and fighting penalties, along with Labrie and Binnington for fighting.
Rockford and Chicago will face off again this evening in what will certainly be a barn-burner.
Before Rockford would get to see the Wolves again, they would head to Iowa for a rare Monday game against the Wild.
It had been some time since Rockford’s special teams put a puck in the net, but on their second opportunity in the first period, Ville Pokka put one past Alex Stalock to give Rockford the early lead.
Iowa took their turn to score on the power play with Mario Lucia tallying his fourth of the season with 1:54 left to play in the period.
The game remained tied until late in the second period when Iowa scored two quick goals to take a big 3-1 lead into the third period. Teemu Pulkkinen scored with 3:18 left in the period, followed 1:58 later by Christoph Bertschy, both at even strength.
Rockford pulled Johansson late in the game, but Pulkkinen, notching his third point of the night, put the puck in the empty net to give Iowa the 4-1 win, ending Rockford’s three game win streak.
Rockford finishes off the season with the aforementioned Wolves game Wednesday followed by a game Friday against the Wild. The ‘Hogs then bus it up to Grand Rapids on New Year’s Eve for the final game of 2016 against the Griffins.