IceHogs split on Pennsylvania trip, move up in standings
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs came away with two standings points last weekend after splitting with two Atlantic Division teams.
Friday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Chris DiDomenico and Anthony Louis each scored in the third period to spark the beginning of a comeback, but the Hogs could not overcome four earlier unanswered goals by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as they fell 6-3.
DiDomenico earned his first goal as a member of the 2017-18 IceHogs at 13:40 of the final frame, tipping home a Viktor Svedberg shot from the blue line. DiDomenico was playing his first game with Rockford this season following a trade from the Belleville Senators on Feb. 16. Three minutes later, Louis and DiDomenico combined on a nifty give-and-go play Louis finished with a top-shelf shot to cut the Penguins’ lead to three goals.
The Penguins got off to a hot start, netting a pair of goals within the first 8:04 of the contest. But Tyler Sikura got the IceHogs on the board with his 16th marker of the season, directing a firm pass from John Hayden over the Penguins’ Casey DeSmith to halve the deficit. Sikura now ranks third in the American Hockey League with 13 goals in his last 25 outings.
Gage Quinney added a third strike for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before the end of the frame to kick off their string of four unanswered through the next two periods. Garrett Wilson, Adam Johnson and Reid Gardner also found twine for the Penguins before the IceHogs brief comeback bid.
Rockford’s Jeff Glass stopped 19 shots. DeSmith logged 24 saves. It was the first-ever meetings between the two clubs.
Ninety-six miles down the road Saturday, John Hayden streaked down the wing on a 2-on-1 just under two minutes into overtime and wired a shot past netminder Vitek Vanacek’s blocker to lead the Rockford to a 4-3 victory over the Hershey Bears at Giant Center.
Hayden’s goal came after Rockford coughed up three separate one-goal leads during the game. Matthew Highmore notched the lone goal of the opening frame to jump-start the IceHogs, swiping home a rebound from a Hayden wrist shot. With his goal, Highmore snapped a six-game goal drought, and set a new franchise AHL record for goals by a rookie with 21.
Midway through the second period, Hershey got on the board as Liam O’Brien found twine for the 14th time this season. William Pelletier then posted his first of two goals on the night to put Rockford ahead once more heading into the second intermission. Pelletier received a breakaway pass from Adam Clendening and slipped the puck five-hole for his eighth of the year.
Clendening’s assist pushed him into a tie for most points (134) and assists (110) all-time by an IceHogs defenseman.
The Bears fought back in the third period with an early goal by Travis Boyd, but another strike from Pelletier again sent Rockford ahead. The teams played scoreless hockey until just over five minutes remained in the game, when Riley Barber forced overtime with a power-play goal.
Rockford’s Collin Delia recorded 11 saves in his third win in his last four starts. Vanacek starred for Hershey at the other end of the ice, turning aside 36 shots.
Rockford’s win and Milwaukee’s loss to the Texas Stars inched the IceHogs up to fifth place in the AHL Central Division.
Next Home Game: The IceHogs welcome the Texas Stars to the BMO Harris Bank Centerat 7 p.m., Wednesday for a Fas Fuel Winning Weekday. Fans can enjoy discounted hot dogs, select beer and companion tickets. Former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman and Stanley Cup champion Brian Campbell will also be in attendance, and a select number of fans will have the chance to get an autograph. R.