The Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins faced off in a home-and-home mini series starting in Grand Rapids on Friday night and finishing in Rockford on Saturday night. Trading 5–2 results, the Griffins and IceHogs split the weekend action with both teams winning in front of their home crowds.
IceHogs split weekend home-and-home series against Griffins
Beginning with the news of Adam Boqvist being re-assigned to the IceHogs from the Chicago Blackhawks prior to heading to Michigan, Rockford came into Friday’s contest having won five of its last six games, having to not leave the state of Illinois during that time. Rockford returned Boqvist to the lineup ahead of its Friday night game against the Griffins with Collin Delia making his seventh start in net.
The IceHogs continue to be hot or cold in their starts to games this season, this time on the wrong end of the spectrum. Down 2–0 within the first 10 minutes of action, the IceHogs cut the Griffins’ first-period lead to 2–1 thanks to Matthew Highmore tapping in a great setup pass from Philipp Kurashev late in the frame.
Rockford kept the pressure on the Griffins in the second period, outshooting Grand Rapids 13–2 in the middle frame, but one of the Griffins’ two shots found the back of the net to extend the gap to 3–1.
Rockford would again need a late-period tally to keep the game within reach, as Philip Holm scored on the power play to make it a 3–2 game heading into the third period. It would be the only power play goal on the night for the IceHogs despite having seven chances on the man advantage.
The IceHogs were unable to mount a comeback in the final period, giving up a power play goal to extend the Griffins’ lead to 4–2 at that point before adding an empty net goal to put the game out of reach, 5–2 being the final. Boqvist did not have quite the return the IceHogs may have hoped, taking a penalty where the Griffins scored on the ensuing power play and ending the night as a -3.
Delia continued his slump to begin the season, making 19 saves on 23 shots faced against the Griffins as his record falls to 2–5–0 on the year. His 4.09 goals against average and .863 save percentage this season rank third on the team behind Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins. Delia is also seeing fewer shots per game (29.1) than Tomkins (31.7) or Lankinen (31.0) this season. The track record suggests that Delia can and will eventually rebound, but for the time being, Lankinen has taken his spot as the go-to starter for the IceHogs.
That is to say, when Lankien is healthy and good to play. The IceHogs have held three goalies on their roster all season. Tomkins’ last start was a surprise start for him, as Lankinen was out with an illness earlier in the day. He also missed six games between starts at the beginning of the year against Iowa and on Oct. 30 against San Antonio.
Nevertheless, with Lankinen healthy and in net on Saturday night, the IceHogs looked to rebound from the previous night and put on a show for the home Rockford crowd on Military Appreciation Night.
They did not disappoint.
While the IceHogs did not have a power play in their Saturday night contest, thanks to both Grand Rapids penalties being coincidental, Rockford was able to make the most of special teams to get the game started. Nick Moutrey intercepted a Griffins cross-ice pass while on the penalty kill and buried his second goal of the year off the turnover for a 1–0 Rockford lead. The shorthanded goal was the sixth of the year for the IceHogs, tied for the second most in the AHL this season.
Just a minute later, Kurashev gave the IceHogs a 2–0 advantage in the first period, despite being woefully outshot 17–4 through the first 20 minutes.
MacKenzie Entwistle would extend the Rockford lead to 3–0 in the second period with his third goal of the season before Grand Rapids stopped the bleeding momentarily with a late goal to make it 3–1 heading into the third period.
Brandon Hagel jumped on the Griffins just 17 seconds into the frame for his third goal of the season to make it a 4–1 margin for the IceHogs.
Evgeny Svechnikov tallied his second goal of the game for the Griffins to cut the Rockford lead in half at 4–2, but Alexandre Fortin put the nail in the coffin with his first goal of the season to ice the 5–2 win for Rockford.
Fortin, Hagel and Lucas Carlsson all had multi-point games for Rockford, with Hagel taking the rookie scoring lead for the IceHogs so far this season with seven points in 14 games played.
Lankinen stood on his head, making 42 saves on 44 shots faced as Rockford was outshot 44–20 on the night, earning the Finnish goaltender first-star-of-the-game honors. With the win, Lankinen improved his record to 4–1–0 this season, having won his last four starts. His 1.99 goals against average ranks seventh in the AHL and his .937 save percentage ranks fifth in the league among qualified goaltenders.
The IceHogs are off until the weekend when they travel for three games in four days deep in the heart of Texas. Starting on Saturday night, the IceHogs travel to Cedar Park to take on the Texas Stars. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. CST and is the first meeting between the teams this season.
Following that, the IceHogs head to San Antonio for two games against the Rampage. Sunday afternoon is set for a 3 p.m. CST puck drop at the AT&T Center and the teams face off again on Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. CST start time. Rockford won the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season 6–2 in Rockford.