By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs used three unanswered goals to cruise to a 5-2 win and a commanding 2-0 lead in their first-round, best-of-five playoff series against the Chicago Wolves here Sunday.
Those goals came from Matthew Highmore, Chris DiDomenico and Lance Bouma, a series of scoring that broke a 2-2 deadlock in the second period.
Highmore’s strike little more than three minutes in was a needed momentum shifter for Rockford, as the Wolves threatened to break the tie with host of quality scoring chances.
“They had a real good push, especially at the beginning of the game,” Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It made it uncomfortable for us. And I thought we could have managed the puck a little better and been a little sharper defensively. But we found a way to win. We got some key goals at key times.”
The Wolves struck first in what unfolded as a chippy, fast-paced affair from the opening faceoff. The goal came at 9:12 of the first period when Wade Megan slammed home a Zac Leslie rebound.
William Pelletier evened the score four minutes later grabbing a pass from Carl Dahlstrom in the high slot and lacking it past Oscar Dansk.
Luke Johnson put Rockford up 2-1 with just under a minute left in the period, sending the BMO Harris Bank Center crowd of 5,418 to its feet. The excitement was deflated just before intermission, however. With three-tenths of a second on the clock, Leslie came flying in on the Rockford net just as T.J. Tynan rifled a last-second shot on Collin Delia. The rebound came right to him, and Leslie buried it into the empty cage to make it 2-2.
The second period belonged to Rockford. DiDomenico doubled Rockford’s advantage 13 minutes after Highmore’s game-winner, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play from Adam Clendening and Victor Ejdsell. Clendening and Ejdsell each notched two points, and Clendening leads the IceHogs with a goal and three assists in two playoff games this year.
“We’re playing hard,” Colliton said. “(Chicago) has a skilled group, and they’re getting their chances. Delia’s made some big saves for us, and we feel that when we play 5-on-5 as much as we can, we match up pretty well.”
Delia stopped 28 shots to remain perfect in the posteseason while Dansk turned aside 24 for Chicago. The series now shifts back to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont Thursday for Game 3. Puck drops at at 7 p.m. A win would give Rockford its first playoff sweep since the ‘Hogs did away with the Texas Stars in the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Next Home Game
If necessary, the IceHogs will host Game 4 Sunday, April 29. R.