Still in it: IceHogs force Game 6 in Western finals
By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs are not going quietly from the AHL Western Conference Finals.
That is because the club believes it can pull off one of the greatest comebacks in league history as the series heads back to Texas.
“The gap is a little bit tighter now,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’ve put a little pressure on them and put a little doubt in their mind.”
Colliton echoed the position he took after Thursday’s win that the 0-3 start was not because the IceHogs have been outplayed by the Stars. Rockford has been in every game of the series, their worst performance being a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2.
The Stars and IceHogs have skated to three overtime decisions in a row so far. Rockford has dropped two. But now that they’re one game way from evening things up, Colliton said there’s a slightly different reality than the one they faced when prolonging the series was their top priority. It’s now about taking the conference champion away from an opponent that looked as though it would sweep its way to the Calder Cup Finals.
“With our group, we’ve always felt we could come back,” Colliton added. “And I don’t think it was a 0-3 series as far as how the games were played. (Thursday night) was huge for us. We found a way to break through and get a little momentum on our side and now we’re in it.”
In Friday’s action, Cody Franson put the IceHogs on the board three minutes into the first period to grab the early lead. Hot-handed Luke Johnson made it 2-0 five minutes later. Johnson now has three goals in as many games.
The IceHogs carried the two-goal cushion into the second. Texas cut the lead on a nifty wrist shot by Roope Hintz that zipped over the shoulder of Jeff Glass before he could make a move nine minutes into the period.
Texas continued a barrage of shots on Glass from that point, out shooting the IceHogs 14-6 in the second period and 12-2 in the third. Glass was didn’t flinch, however. The veteran finished with 40 saves and as the game’s No. 1 star.
David Kampf added Rockford’s insurance goal at 11:13 of the third period when he threw a shot on net from the left point. The rebound off Mike McKenna’s blocker flipped high and lazily over his shoulder and landed in the net to give Rockford the 3-1 advantage for the rest of the contest.
Texas pulled McKenna for an extra attacker but could’t solve Jeff Glass to buy them an extra 20 minutes.
Glass has now stopped 68 of 71 shots in just two playoff appearances. Rockford was out shot 41-21 in Friday’s game.
Game 6 is slated for Monday in Austin. If necessary, Game 7 is Tuesday. R.