On Sunday afternoon, the Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves squared off in their second game in less than 24 hours as the second game of their Calder Cup Playoffs opening round matchup took place in Rockford. In another tightly contested, fast-paced contest between Rockford and Chicago, it would be the IceHogs coming away with a 5-2 win and taking a commanding 2-0 series lead heading into an elimination scenario in Game Three on Thursday back in Chicago.
Game Two: Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 5-2
The IceHogs went with what worked in Game One with Collin Delia in net. Coming back from injury, Tanner Kero made his way into the Rockford lineup after missing the past half-dozen games. The physicality between the teams picked up right where it has left off after the baker’s dozen of games between the clubs this season. Nearing the mid-way point of the game, the Wolves were able to get on the board as Wade Megan put home a rebound for the 1-0 goal.
The IceHogs wouldn’t have to wait long to respond as they picked up the pace after the Chicago goal and with just over six minutes left in the first period, William Pelltier took the puck from the far corner and ripped one past Oscar Dansk, and the game was tied 1-1. The IceHogs would get the go-ahead goal in the first period with a powerplay tally from Luke Johnson to make it a 2-1 game late, but Chicago would respond late as Zac Leslie would put home a rebound goal just as the first period expired and make it a 2-2 game after a frantic 20 minutes.
The frenzied pace would carry over into the second period as the Wolves took an early penalty that would allow the IceHogs to re-take the lead as Matthew Highmore went up high to beat Dansk, making it a 3-2 game early in the middle frame. Shortly after, Rockford found themselves in a dangerous position, having to kill off a five-on-three penalty chance mid–way through the period. The IceHogs were able to kill off both penalties and bring the home crowd back into the game in a big way.
Through the mid-way point of the game, the Wolves led the IceHogs on shots on net, but Collin Delia was able to turn away the high-danger scoring chances that Chicago were creating, including a turnover to T.J. Tynan in the slot that Delia squared up and held onto. Late in the period, the IceHogs were able to extend their lead to 4-2 with a powerplay goal from Chris DiDomenico on a five-on-three man advantage. The first 40 minutes of the game saw Rockford go three for five on the powerplay and the third period would begin with their sixth powerplay opportunity of the game.
The Wolves and IceHogs traded penalty-kills to begin the third period with Rockford’s two-goal lead intact. Collin Delia came up with a number of key saves in the final frame, making 28 saves on the night, keeping the two-goal lead safe late into the third period. With the Chicago net empty and just under a minute to play, Lance Bouma found the yawning cage and put the IceHogs up 5-2 for the final score. With the win, Rockford takes a 2-0 series lead heading back to Chicago for Game Three.
One of the biggest factors in both games in the series so far has been the work of the special teams on both sides of the ice. Rockford had been one of the worst combined special teams clubs all season, but down the late stretch of the year and now into the Calder Cup Playoffs, have been clicking on the powerplay. With five powerplay goals over the last two games, Rockford’s offense has been driven by their chances on the man-advantage. While that is all fine and good, the Wolves have had their own successes on the powerplay, converting once in both games One and Two. If Rockford is to advance past Chicago, they will have to stay disciplined and be out of the penalty box in Game three.
Adam Clendening, Chris DiDomenico, and Victor Ejdsell all notched two-points in the Game Two victory and Delia improved his professional postseason record to 2-0-0, with a 1.51 GAA and a .952 save-percentage. With the win on Sunday, Rockford finds itself with a chance to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs since the 2014-15 season, and only the second time in the club’s AHL history.
Hear postgame interviews with head coach Jeremy Colliton, Matthew Highmore, Luke Johnson, and Collin Delia;
Head Coach Jeremy Colliton
With a win in Game Two, the IceHogs take a 2-0 series lead back to Chicago on Thursday for Game Three, in what is now an elimination game in the best-of-five series. Here is the full first-round schedule for Rockford and Chicago:
- Game One – Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 2-1 (RFD leads series 1-0)
- Game Two – Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 5-2 (RFD leads series 2-0)
- Game Three – at Chicago, Thursday, April 26 – 7pm
- Game Four * – at Rockford, Sunday, April 29 – 4pm (if necessary)
- Game Five * – at Chicago, Monday, April 30 – 7pm (if necessary)
Winner of the Rockford-Chicago series will go on to face the winner of the Manitoba Moose-Grand Rapids Griffins series in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.