By Jim Hagerty
DOWNTOWN — The Rockford IceHogs dominated the third period but couldn’t pot the equalizer, resulting in a 5-3 loss to the Iowa Wild in the second game of a home-and-home set here Friday.
Trailing 4-1 going into the third period, Tanner Kero and Tyler Sikura scored within seconds to cut the Wild lead to one. Kero’s tally was his first of the season since being assigned by the Chicago Blackhawks. Sikura’s goal was his fifth on the year, a redirect from Ville Pokka.
“I think we had a good stretch in the first period–like six or seven minutes,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Then we weren’t very good for a long time. We made mental mistakes that don’t give yourself a chance to win. I loved our third (period). I think we competed extremely hard and did everything to get back in the game.”
But, three goals proved to be a lead too large to erase. Iowa capitalized on a host of Rockford mistakes, including penalties that resulted in two Wild power-play goals.
The IceHogs pulled goaltender Collin Delia on a third-period power play for two extra attackers in the waning minutes of the contest. However, Kyle Rau fired home a shorthanded, empty netter to ice the comeback.
The IceHogs went 0-for-5 on the power play.
Matheson Iacopelli also scored for Rockford before Iowa began its onslaught of unanswered goals.
Delia made 25 saves in the losing effort. Stephen Michalek stopped 45 shots for his second win in three starts.
Thursday night in Des Moines, Matthew Highmore netted a hat trick as the ‘Hogs skated past the Wild 6-3. The seesaw affair featured five first-period goals as the clubs exchanged early leads.
Alexandre Fortin opened the scoring 3:02 into the opening frame to put Rockford on the board first, but Luke Kunin scored for Iowa 12 seconds later.
Highmore then put Rockford ahead 2-1. But, Justin Kloos and Pat Cannone scored back-to-back goals giving the Wild the lead. Tyler Sikura sniped a goal over Michalek’s glove in the final three minutes of the second period and Highmore deflected a shot home from Tomas Jurco to give Rockford a one-goal lead with 31 seconds remaining.
William Pelletier scored Rockford’s fifth goal. Highmore completed the hat trick on an empty netter in the final minute of the third. The rookie now has two hat tricks in his first 31 pro games.
Rockford skates with the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont Saturday before returning to the BMO Harris Bank Center for a Tuesday evening tilt with the Cleveland Monsters. Puck drops at 7 p.m. R.