On Wednesday night, the Rockford IceHogs took on their rivals the Chicago Wolves in the 11th installment of the Illinois Lottery Cup Rivalry this season, having split the first ten matchups. Behind a solid performance in net from starter Collin Delia, the IceHogs were able to keep pace in the Central Division playoff race with a 2-1 shootout win in Rockford. The IceHogs are now on a four-game win streak and a five-game points streak.
Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 2-1 (SO)
The IceHogs came into Wednesday night’s contest with a slim one-point lead over the Texas Stars for fourth-place in the Central Division. In the AHL, the top four teams in each Division make the Calder Cup Playoffs, so the race in the Central Division has come down to two spots: a race between the top three teams for first-place and a race between the other five teams for fourth-place. Rockford “leads” the fourth-place race currently and the win over Chicago helped keep their one-point lead alive for another night.
The IceHogs and Wolves were scoreless through the first period, but it took just under four minutes in the second period for Victor Ejdsell to breakthrough and get the game’s first goal. Alexandre Fortin put a shot on net that deflected off a Wolves defender and Ejdsell was able to re-direct it on net and get by Oscar Dansk. The goal was Ejdsell’s 10th of the season and gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.
The lead would last almost to the end of the period, but with just under two minutes to go in the middle frame, the Wolves were able to get a breakaway chance on a Rockford powerplay and Cage Quinney found the back of the net. Quinney’s 17th of the season tied the game at 1-1 heading into the third period.
Neither team was able to break the 1-1 tie in the third period, thanks to some stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice from Delia and Dansk. The game would head to overtime, and while Rockford had at least three chances in the extra frame to put the game away, including a Henri Jokiharju shot off the post and a failed Dennis Gilbert breakaway chance, they would come up empty and the game would head to the shootout.
In the shootout, the Wolves and IceHogs were both shut down in the first and second rounds with Dansk and Delia making two saves a piece. It wasn’t until Jordan Schroeder‘s turn in the top of the third round that a breakthrough was made as he beat Dansk with a patient backhand move. It was down to Delia against T.J. Tynan with the game on the line and Delia was able to make a five-hole save to seal the win for Rockford.
COLLIN DELIA VICTORY STRUT#IceHogs top #Wolves in the shootout!#RFDvsCHI #AHL#HockeyTwitter pic.twitter.com/M5SmCK8HNs
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) March 21, 2019
Delia celebrated with a McMahon/McGregor style strut and it was well-deserved after his 32-save performance against the Wolves. With the win, the IceHogs are riding a four-game win streak and keep hold of the fourth spot in the Central Division. Delia improved his record to 10-6-4 with a league-leading (min. 20 GP) 0.932 save-percentage and a 2.26 GAA which ranks second in the AHL (again, min. 20 GP).
It a hotly contested, playoff-like rivalry game against the Wolves, the IceHogs were able to kill all six powerplays against them, but as 0-for-5 on their own powerplay. Rockford ranks eighth in the league on the penalty-kill with an 82.6% kill-rate.
Calder Cup Playoff Race
With the shootout win over the Wolves, the IceHogs kept hold of the fourth spot in the Central Division with 72 points this season. The Texas Stars defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday night, but remain one point behind Rockford in fifth-place.
- Chicago Wolves (64 GP) – 37-19-8, 82 pts
- Grand Rapids Griffins (64 GP) – 35-19-10, 80 pts
- Iowa Wild (65 GP) – 34-19-12, 80 pts
- Rockford IceHogs (65 GP) – 31-24-10, 72 pts
- Texas Stars (66 GP) – 32-27-7, 71 pts
- Manitoba Moose (64 GP) – 31-27-6, 68 pts
- Milwaukee Admirals (65 GP) – 26-24-15, 67 pts
- San Antonio Rampage (65 GP) – 27-31-7, 61 pts
Rockford’s final 11 games this season will all be against Central Division opponents, including three straight games against the Milwaukee Admirals coming up in their next three games.
Late Wednesday night, the IceHogs made an addition to their roster by signing 2014 Blackhawks draft pick Fredrik Olofsson. Drafted in the fourth round by Chicago in 2014, Olofsson played the last four seasons at Nebraska-Omaha, skating in 137 games and tallying 95 points (35 G, 60 A) in his NCAA career. Olofsson set a career-high in points with 34 as a Senior this year.
Olofsson also has spent time playing for Team Sweden in his junior ranks, skating with Sweden in the 2016 World Junior Championships and tallying three points in seven games. He joins the IceHogs on a PTO deal and could factor into the Rockford lineup as the Calder Cup Playoff push continues.
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Friday as they open a three-game set against the Milwaukee Admirals that will stretch over six days until Wednesday, March 27. On Friday, the IceHogs travel North to Milwaukee for a 7pm CT puck drop at the Panther Arena. Following Friday night’s contest, the IceHogs turn around and host the Admirals for a 6pm CT puck drop at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Finally, on Wednesday March 27, the IceHogs again host the Admirals for a 7pm CT puck drop in Rockford. This season, Rockford holds a 4-2-1 record over Milwaukee with all four IceHogs wins decided by one goal.
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