By Todd Reicher
After going on their second-longest winning streak of the season, the IceHogs finish up the calendar year splitting two games.
The first game of the weekend was a home game on Friday, December 30 against the Iowa Wild who beat the IceHogs 4-1 just five days prior.
Just 48 seconds into the game Mario Lucia scored on Mac Carruth to give the Wild a quick lead.
Rockford gathered themselves and kept the Wild off the board for the remainder of the period, but were unable to score on Steve Michalek during the opening 20, giving the Wild a 1-0 lead.
It took almost 27 minutes for the next goal to be scored, and luckily it was the IceHogs who were on the scoring side. Defenseman Nolan Valleau scored his first goal of the season and his second for the IceHogs in 79 games played. Spencer Abbott was credited with the primary assist on the game-tying goal, and Kyle Baun was given the secondary.
Less than six minutes later Rockford took their first lead of the game, courtesy of Sam Carrick and his fourth goal of the season. Both Abbott and Baun were given the assists once again.
After missing a few weeks due to injury, Nick Schmaltz returned and scored his fourth goal of the year at 8:41 of the third period to give Rockford a commanding 3-1 lead midway through the period.
Defenseman Cameron Schilling capped the scoring with his seventh of the season with 3:40 left in the game on an empty net tally, giving Rockford a 4-1 victory.
After being scored on in his first shot against, Carruth settled down and stopped the next 25 shots he faced.
The following night, Rockford headed up to Grand Rapids to face the Griffins on New Year’s Eve.
Rockford played the opposite role from the previous night and scored a quick first period goal to take a 1-0 lead. It was Abbott again providing the offensive spark, notching his eighth of the season at 1:31 to put Rockford up 1-0.
What had plagued Rockford multiple times so far this season had come back to haunt them this game – surrendering multiple goals in the middle period.
A few weeks ago, coach Ted Dent had stated his team was last in the league for goal differential in the second period. Not long after that remark, Rockford started to play better in the second, but this game all of that went out the window with Grand Rapids tallying three goals to go up 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Robbie Russo scored with exactly one second remaining on a 5-on-3 advantage to knot the score at 1-1.
Four minutes later, Eric Tangradi put home his third of the season, and with 52 seconds left, Dan Renouf scored his first professional goal for the 3-1 lead.
Rockford needed a spark early in the third to get back into the game, and Carrick provided the ignition, along with Abbott on the assist.
The IceHogs were unable to earn the equalizer, and Tomas Nosek scored at the seven-minute mark to extend the lead to 4-2, and followed it up with an empty net tally at 19:46 to seal a 5-2 win for the Griffins.
Rockford looks to get back on track in the New Year with four games in six days (three on the road) to start off January. Rockford visited Milwaukee on Tuesday (results unavailable at press time), followed by a Friday game in Rosemont against the Wolves, then Saturday back up in Grand Rapids.
The IceHogs return home on Sunday for the final game of week 13 with a 4 p.m. matchup against the Chicago Wolves in the first of four straight home games.