By Todd Reicher
These past few weeks we saw glimpses of the team many thought we would have seen to start the year, as the IceHogs rattled off an eight-game point streak. Rockford’s first regulation loss in the month of February did not occur until their ninth game of the month on February 18.
Rockford started off the week with a Wednesday school day game against the Lake Erie Monsters, which saw the IceHogs win 2-0.
After a scoreless, and almost penalty-free first period, Rockford’s Tyler Motte scored his sixth goal of the season with only one second remaining on a power play that carried over from the first period. Kyle Baun and Mark McNeill were in on what would be the game-winning goal.
The Monsters took the lead in shots attempted in the second period, which carried over into the third period as Cleveland peppered goaltender Jeff Glass with 29 shots in the final two periods. Glass would stop all shots faced for his second shutout in an IceHogs jersey, and his second of the season against Cleveland.
Two days later, Rockford would host the Monsters for the second game of the series and we would see a near similar outcome.
The IceHogs would open the scoring early, 2:57 into the contest, off the stick of Evan Mosey for the 1-0 lead.
Jeremy would double Rockford’s lead 2:27 later with his sixth of the season, assisted by Luke Johnson to put Rockford up 2-0.
With only a few seconds remaining on their first power play attempt of the game, Cleveland would score their first, and only goal of the two-game series when Markus Hannikainen scored his 11th of the year to cut the Rockford lead in half.
Rockford poured 18 shots on Monsters netminder Anton Forsberg, who was starting his second consecutive game against Rockford, and without him, Rockford could have easily put four goals in the net.
The IceHogs almost matched their first period output in shots, firing 17 this time, but the goal count remained the same for the home squad with two.
Langlois scored his second of the game at 13:24, and Spencer Abbott fired a rocket from near the left face-off circle 1:30 later to give Rockford some cushion at 4-1.
Cleveland put extra pressure on in the third period, and fired 18 of their own in the final 20, but Lars Johansson and Rockford’s defense held Cleveland’s attack at bay as Rockford cruised to a 4-1 win.
The following night Rockford would suffer their first regulation loss since Saturday, January 28 with a 2-0 loss against the Charlotte Checkers. Rockford played a very solid game, but were unable to capitalize on their chances, and also faced a solid goaltender in Alex Nedekjkovic.
Charlotte’s first goal came on a bad line change by Rockford, which allowed Valentin Zykov to get behind the Rockford defense and slip on past Glass at 11:35 for the 1-0 lead. The Checkers carried the play in the period and doubled up Rockford on shots, 16-8.
The IceHogs played better in the second period as they adjusted to Charlotte’s attack, but the Checkers were the only team to light the lamp in the middle frame, which was a clean-up goal from Andrew Poturalski at 6:57.
Rockford pressed the attack in the third period, and involved the defense more on the attack, but were unable to crack the Charlotte goal crease as the Checkers ended Rockford’s five-game win streak.
Rockford’s point streak pulled them out of last place in the conference, just ahead of the Manitoba Moose. Point-wise, Rockford is tied for sixth with Charlotte at 49 points and only three behind the Monsters at 52. Currently, the Griffins lead the Central with 71 points and a .696 point percentage, which is good for third in the league.
The IceHogs embarked on a four-game road trip which takes them through Manitoba for a two-game series Tuesday (results not available by press time) and Wednesday. Rockford will then travel to San Diego for a matchup against the Gulls on Saturday followed by a matinee game on Sunday against the Ontario Reign.
Rockford returns home on Tuesday, February 28 for the first of two straight games at home against Manitoba. Rockford will close out the week with a Saturday game at home against the Iowa Wild on Saturday, March 4.