By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – The Rockford IceHogs wasted no time doing away with the Manitoba Moose last Friday to remain perfect in the playoffs and advance to the AHL Western Conference Finals.
The 6-3 drubbing came from four players who posted multi-point efforts and Collin Delia’s 35 saves in front of a spirited, red-cladded BMO Harris Bank Center crowd.
Delia now owns the IceHogs’ all-time record for consecutive playoff wins by a goaltender with seven, and the 2017-18 Hogs set a new team record, also for consecutive playoff wins, with seven. The Hogs outscored the Moose 18-7 through their series, and with four power-play goals tonight now lead the League with 15 tallies on the man-advantage.
“Right when we skated out, I felt like it was going to be an amazing night,” Delia said about Friday’s win. “The energy the fans bring is second to none. I don’t think I’ve played in a more excited building.
Friday’s tilt included 10 Manitoba penalties, something the IceHogs expected after the Moose fell 3-0. And although Rockford found the penalty box eight times, their special teams more than did their jobs. The IceHogs capitalized with four power-play goals, including a highlight-reel quality penalty shot by Victor Ejdsell in the second period.
“We knew they had some undisciplined players and some hotheads,” Delia said. “So, we had to keep our composure because I think at a certain point they realized they couldn’t play with us and they were just trying to drag us down. I thought we did really good maintaining that composure.”
For the first time this postseason, Rockford opened the scoring in Game 4, a power-play goal from Cody Franson, his third playoff marker five minutes into the contest. The Moose found the equalizer eight minutes later. The clubs traded goals from there and headed into the first intermission with a 2-2 tie.
It was all Rockford in the second period as the IceHogs exploded for three goals, including a second power-play strike from Franson. Chris DiDomenico and Adam Clendening assisted on both Franson goals. DiDomenico finished the night with a goal and two assists.
Andreas Martinsen added an empty-net insurance goal for Rockford in the third period just before Manitoba lit the lamp for a meaningless strike with 10 second left in the game.
“We wanted to close it out,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It wasn’t always perfect, but we got some important goals at key times. We got some saves at key times and we were physical and hard to play against. That was the series.”
The IceHogs will now head to the Western Conference Final for the first time in AHL franchise history, where they will take on the Texas Stars in a best-of-7 series beginning Friday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, just outside of Austin. The series shifts back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for Game 3 Tuesday.
Tickets can be purchased at IceHogs.com, by calling 815 968-5222 or at the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office. R.