CLEVELAND- Matthew Highmore got the Rockford IceHogs on the board first in their 20th anniversary season opener against the Cleveland Monsters at the Quicken Loans Arena, but Cleveland responded with four consecutive goals and the IceHogs ultimately fell 4-1 to their division rivals.
Rockford outshot Cleveland 25-21, but were stymied by former IceHogs goaltender, Jean-Francois Berube who made 24 saves.
Highmore started the scoring for the IceHogs with 2:53 remaining in the first period on a tap-in from a nifty passing play between Highmore, Luc Snuggerud and Victor Ejdsell. The second-year pro picked up where he left off after leading Rockford in goals last season.
Cleveland forward Eric Robinson evened the score just 1:58 into the second period, deflecting a shot from forward Zac Dalpe.
Heading into the third period with the game tied 1-1, the Monsters seized control with a three-goal-outburst.
Monsters forward Kevin Stenlund broke the tie at the 3:26 mark of the stanza on a shot from the slot assisted by Nathan Gerbe. Forward Vitaly Abramov bolstered the Cleveland lead after a give-and-go play between Abramov and defenseman Michael Prapavess, then Gerbe sealed the deal with a full-ice empty net goal.
The IceHogs will look to get back on track on the second leg of the back-to-back against Cleveland on Saturday at Quicken Loans arena. R.