By Todd Reicher
One week after the Rockford IceHogs finished up a five-game home stand with a 4-1 record, the ‘Hogs hit the road for a four-game road trip through Canada and California.
Rockford’s first two games took place in Manitoba against the Moose, where Rockford has traditionally performed poorly, winning only 1/3 of their 12 games played on Manitoba ice. Combine this with Rockford atrocious road record this year (prior to the Manitoba series, Rockford was 5-15-4-1) and the outlook wasn’t good for the ‘Hogs. The IceHogs bucked the trend and wound up winning both games, each by one goal.
Game one was on Tuesday, February 21 where Rockford jumped on the board first when Brandon Mashinter tallied a power play goal at 9:45.
Mashinter doubled Rockford’s lead to 2-0 under three minutes later with his 11th of the season at 12:34. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson had assists on both goals, bringing his total to 17 on the season.
The Moose came out strong in the second period, scoring two goals in 33 seconds to quickly even the score at 2-2. Nolan Zajac scored his first of the season at 1:02 and Scott Glennie tied the score with his seventh at 1:35.
Neither team would tally again in the second frame as we headed to the third period tied at 2-2.
Kyle Baun broke the tie with his ninth of the season at 3:30, and Martin Lundberg extended the lead to two goals 1:34 later with his eighth of the season putting Rockford up 4-2 with 15 minutes left.
Manitoba’s Brian Strait scored his first of the season, shorthanded, with 5:28 left to play to close the gap to one goal with plenty of time left.
Jeff Glass held off the remainder of the Moose shots, including over one minute of extra attack time when Eric Comrie was sent to the bench for the extra attacker, as Rockford held on for the 4-3 win.
The following night both teams met again for the second game of the series.
Manitoba dominated Rockford in the first frame, peppering Lars Johansson with 11 shots on net, opposed to Rockford’s four, but were unable to put one past the Rockford goaltender.
Rockford’s second period was closer in shot comparison, with Manitoba leading 10-9, but the penalty-free second period failed to yield a goal, and we would head to the third period scoreless, with the Moose up in shots 21-13.
The ‘Hogs would head to the PK early in the third with Sam Carrick heading to the box 13 seconds in for tripping. Rockford would kill off the penalty, but Chris DeSousa would put Rockford shorthanded again at 4:45 for Rockford’s third tripping penalty of the game.
Once again, Rockford killed the penalty, as we remained scoreless early in the third.
Both teams managed 12 shots on net in the third period, but for the third straight 20 minutes of hockey, we did not have a goal, leading to a scoreless overtime session.
Neither team had many changes in the extra session with Manitoba putting two shots on goal to Rockford’s one, so for the first time this season, we were going to a scoreless shootout.
Johansson stopped the first shootout attempt from Kyle Connor, and Rockford’s first shooter, Spencer Abbott used his backhand-to-forehand move and put the first puck of the game into the net for the 1-0 shootout lead.
The next two shooters for Manitoba failed to convert as Johansson played a perfect game, stopping 35 shots, and three shootout attempts, for the 1-0 shootout win.
Rockford had a few days off as they made their to San Diego for a Saturday game against the Gulls.
It was Kyle Baun who put Rockford on the board first with an early goal at 1:31. Baun’s 10th of the season was assisted by Mark McNeill and Jeremy Langlois.
San Diego tied things up at 5:47 when Brandon Montour scored his 13th of the year to bring the score to 1-1.
The Gulls took their first lead of the game at 12:16 with a Jaycob Megna goal, putting San Diego up 2-1 late in the first.
Rockford had a prime opportunity to knot the score at 2-2, but failed with 1:49 of 5-on-3 hockey to keep the score at 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Ville Pokka scored 1:07 into Rockford’s third power play of the game to even things up a 2-2 with 15:52 left to play in the second.
Rockford would hold San Diego scoreless on two more power play attempts late in the second to keep the score at 2-2 heading into the third.
San Diego took the lead for the second, and final time, 4:28 into the final period with a Tyler Morley goal to cap the scoring at 3-2.
The IceHogs had yet another great opportunity late in the game when Max Gortz was called for Delay of Game with 2:56 left to play. Rockford failed again with the extra attacker as the Gulls held on for the 3-2 win.
Rockford finished off their four-game road trip with a Sunday game against the Ontario Reign.
The first-place Reign jumped out to a quick 1-0 when Brett Sutter scored just 51 seconds into the game for the 1-0 lead.
Abbott put Rockford right back into the game with his 13th of the season 53 seconds later at 1:44 to even things up at 1-1, where the score would sit until the end of the first period. The Reign held court in shots with a 10-5 lead.
Ontario struck again quickly in the second period, 1:11 into the frame, to reclaim their lead.
The Reign extended that lead to 3-1 with Sam Herr beating Glass at 5:56.
Once again, Rockford answered back with two goals in a little over three minutes to even the score once again, this time at 3-3. Abbott scored his second of the game at 8:20 followed by a Carl Dahlstrom goal at 11:49.
The tie was short lived as Ontario’s Jonny Brodzinski scored his 21st of the year with 4:13 left in the period to give the Reign a 4-3 lead. Once again the Reign doubled up Rockford in shots, 12-6, but Rockford was still in the game despite being outshot 22-11.
Rockford’s hopes took a hard hit when Sutter scored his second of the game at 11:44 to give Ontario a two-goal cushion with less than nine minutes to play.
Brandon Mashinter gave Rockford a chance with his 12th goal of the season with 1:23 left in the game, closing the gap to 5-4, with Glass on the bench giving Rockford an extra attacker.
The IceHogs failed to score a second goal with Glass on the bench as the IceHogs fall in another one-goal game, 5-4.
Rockford returned home last night for the first of two straight games at home against Manitoba, losing to the Moose 5-3. The second game of the series takes place Friday. Rockford will close out the week with a Saturday game at home against the Iowa Wild.