By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs used four unanswered goals to clip the San Antonio Rampage 4-3 in front of 5,544 fans at the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday.
Nathan Noel was credited with the game-winner, his first AHL goal at 2:33 of the second period to close out Rockford’s scoring. After being upended on a hip check in the Rockford zone along the half boards, Noel raced down the right-wing side and arrived in the Rampage end just as Alexandre Fortin intercepted a pass and found him wide open in the slot.
“I just tried to stay in the play,” Noel said. “And I got a lucky bounce. It was kind of gift wrapped, but sometimes you need those.”
Luke Johnson, Henrik Samuelsson and Tanner Kero also scored for the IceHogs. Johnson corralled a loose puck from a Matthew Highmore deflection and fired a shot into the open cage to even the score at 14:20 of the first period.
Samuelsson then provided the go-ahead goal, a wrist shot that beat San Antonio’s Spencer Martin with 3:50 remaining in the opening frame. It was Samuelsson’s third goal in as many games since arriving in Rockford via the Edmonton Oilers organization.
The IceHogs continued pressure in the second period, as Kero posted his seventh goal of the season just under a minute before Noel’s tally. William Pelletier fed Kero a pass behind the net and Kero jammed the puck past Martin’s glove side at close range.
“We really hemmed them in,” Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton said of Sunday’s performance. “It is nice to get the points and hopefully we can build on it.”
Colliton scrapped his power-play and penalty-kill lines after a dismal display Saturday against Cleveland. Instead, he went with his regular line rotation. The results were mixed. However, despite giving up three power-play goals, the IceHogs scored two of their own, something they’ve not done much of this season. That is why Colliton says he’s sticking with the new system for now.
“No one really deserves to play on the power play when you’re at 12 percent,” he said. “So, no one can think they have to go out every time. So, maybe we’ll create a little competition, maybe not just game-to-game, but shift-to-shift.”
After Sunday’s contest, Rockford is tied with the Belleville Senators at 13.5 percent for the worst power-play in the American Hockey League. At 76.2 percent, Rockford’s penalty-kill is all alone in the bottom spot, 13.6 percentage points behind the AHL-leading Toronto Marlies.
‘Hogs goaltender Collin Delia recorded a 25-save night. Spencer Martin was relieved in the second period by Ville Husso and the pair combined for 24 Rampage saves.
Next Home Game: The IceHogs welcome the Texas Stars to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday, Feb. 28, for a Fas Fuel Winning Weekday. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. Former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman and Stanley Cup champion Brian Campbell will be in attendance, and a select number of fans will have the chance to get his autograph. Fans can enjoy discounted hot dogs, select beer and companion tickets. If the Hogs win, tickets from Wednesday’s game can be redeemed for a ticket of equal or lesser value to the Fas Fuel Winning Weekdays game on Tuesday, March 13. R.