AHL: IceHogs look to rebound in tight Central Division
By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs slipped out of playoff contention after dropping two games to Manitoba Moose last week.
Rockford is still in the conversation, however, as the Central Division race for the fourth and final postseason spot continues to tighten up. As of this report, the IceHogs, with 64 points, have slipped back to seventh place, three points fourth-place Texas.
In last Saturday’s action, Dennis Gilbert gave Rockford a chance for a win in the third period, but Felix Girard scored a late goal and Eric Comrie made 33 saves to snuff out the comeback and give Manitoba a 3-1-win at Bell MTS Place.
Gilbert’s goal came on a rebound in front of the net after Comrie couldn’t handle the initial shot by Peter Holland. That made it 2-1, ended 40 minutes of scoreless hockey for the IceHogs and spoiled Comrie’s shutout. Girard quickly made it 3-1, giving Manitoba the regulation win and denying the IceHogs a point in the standings.
“It took us awhile to get the legs going, but I felt we played well in the second and third,” coach Derek King said. “We just couldn’t find a way to put one in.”
The IceHogs pulled goaltender Anton Forsberg with two minutes remaining in regulation, but Cromie stoned the effort. The goalie stopped 19 shots in the third period to remain unbeaten in two starts against Rockford this season.
It was another close one in Sunday’s matinee in Manitoba but, like Saturday, the IceHogs couldn’t find a way to close it out in regulation. Down 1-0 midway through the third, Manitoba’s Mason Appleton potted the tying marker to buy the Moose five extra minutes. It paid off as Michael Spacek scored the game-winner just 51 seconds into the extra frame.
The winning goal came on an Appleton rebound, as Spacek grabbed the puck and made a nifty move to solve goaltender Kevin Lankinen. The decision gives Manitoba the 3-0-0-1 series win against Rockford on the 2018-19 campaign.
“We’ll take the point,” assistant coach Anders Sorensen said. “That’s probably the only positive thing that came out of today. We needed one more goal there in regulation to kind of hang on and put ourselves in a better spot. We did some good things, but we made some mistakes that hurt us.”
Peter Holland extended his point streak to three games with an assist Saturday and goal Sunday. He has now tallied six points in seven games since making his debut Feb. 20. Overall he has points in 36 of 59 games this season and enters this week tied for seventh in the AHL in scoring with 55 total points.
Jordan Schroeder leads the IceHogs and is tied for 12th in the league since Feb. 1 with 16 points (7g, 9a) in 15 contests. That total includes points in his last three games, two against Manitoba last week. The veteran centerman is just four points away from his career-best total from the 2011-12 season with Chicago. Schroeder ended that season with 21 goals and 23 assists.
The IceHogs skate with the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight at the Van Andel Arena.
Next Home Game:
The IceHogs host Dino Night on March 16 at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The first 2,500 fans will receive a free Jane, the T-Rex, bobblehead, courtesy of Register Star Media.
Photo: Todd Reicher