With their Calder Cup Playoff lives on the line, the Rockford IceHogs overcame a 3–1 deficit in the second period to top the Admirals on the road in overtime, 4–3. Dylan Sikura found the overtime winner as the IceHogs close to within one-point of a postseason position.
IceHogs complete comeback in overtime vs. Milwaukee
On a night where the physicality was turned up and Dmitry Osipov and even Collin Delia got into tussles, the IceHogs were able to keep their heads about them enough to come away with a win in their AHL-leading 26th game that went into the extra period of play.
The IceHogs got off to a fast start just 40 seconds into the game, as Luke Johnson ripped home his 17th goal of the season off a face-off won by Reese Johnson, now known as the “No Tears Line” (Johnson and Johnson products, get it?). Luke Johnson tied his AHL season-high in points with 30 on the game’s opening goal. From there, the Admirals would score three unanswered goals from Cole Schneider, Anthony Richard and a second-period goal from Justin Kirkland to give Milwaukee a 3–1 lead midway through the contest.
Looking for life in the second period, Anthony Louis won a board battle and Lucas Carlsson was able to skate the puck in between the circles and score his ninth goal of the season to cut the Milwaukee lead to 3–2. Carlsson’s first goal since Feb. 9 pulled the IceHogs within striking distance heading into the third period.
In the final period of regulation, the IceHogs grabbed control of the pace of play, out-shooting the Admirals 12–4 and finding the game’s equalizing goal from Sikura with 15:22 to play. Sikura’s 16th goal of the season was enough to tie the game and force overtime for the 26th time this season for Rockford.
In the extra period, the IceHogs again controlled the pace of play, continuing to cycle in and out of their offensive zone nearly at will against Milwaukee. With just over 90 seconds remaining, Sikura found space in the Admirals’ zone and fired home his 17th goal of the season and second of the game for the 4–3 overtime-winner.
Sikura, along with Reese Johnson and Carlsson all tallied multi-point nights for the IceHogs while Delia made 14 saves on 17 shots as his record improved to 13–8–4 this season. Delia has won six of his last eight starts for the IceHogs since March 1.
Since returning to the IceHogs on April 2, Sikura has five points in four games, including two multi-goal games. With 35 points in 44 games, Sikura ranks third on the IceHogs in scoring and his 0.80 points per game pace is tied with Peter Holland for the team lead.
Finally, two notes to finish the thrilling win. First, with the 4–3 overtime win, the IceHogs record this season when scoring three or more goals in a game improved to 30–2–2. Secondly, on a sour note, Matthew Highmore took a big hit in the first period and did not return to the game from then on. He suffered a shoulder injury in early November that required surgery and had just returned to the IceHogs lineup at the beginning of April. After the game, interim head coach Derek King said Highmore bruised up his shoulder but would be fine.
Calder Cup Playoff race
With the win on Tuesday night, the IceHogs move within one-point of a Calder Cup Playoff spot. Milwaukee earned a point to move to 84 points, which is also the maximum amount of points that the IceHogs could reach with two games remaining.
- x- Chicago Wolves (73 games played) – 43–21–9 – 95 points (at Iowa, vs. Manitoba, vs. Manitoba)
- Grand Rapids Griffins (73 games played) – 38–24–11 – 87 points (vs. Iowa, vs. Manitoba, at Milwaukee)
- Milwaukee Admirals (74 games played) – 34–24–16 – 84 points (vs. Grand Rapids, at Rockford)
- Manitoba Moose (73 games played) – 37–29–7 – 81 points (at Grand Rapids, at Chicago, at Chicago)
- Iowa Wild (73 games played) – 34–26–13 – 81 points (at Grand Rapids, vs. Chicago, vs. Rockford)
- Texas Stars (73 games played) – 36–29–8 – 80 pts (vs. San Antonio, at San Antonio, vs. San Antonio)
- Rockford IceHogs (74 games played) – 35–29–10 – 80 pts (at Iowa, vs. Milwaukee)
- e – San Antonio Rampage (73 games played) – 29–37–7 – 65 pts (at Texas, vs. Texas, at Texas)
x = Clinched Playoff Spot
e = Eliminated From Playoff Spot
The Iowa Wild, Texas Stars and Manitoba Moose will all play at least one game before the IceHogs take the ice again, with the Wild and Stars playing twice. Rockford will pull for those three teams hopefully coming away with no points over those games to keep their playoff chances as high as possible in the Central Division.
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Saturday night, as they travel to take on the Iowa Wild, then return home for their season finale against the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday night. Saturday’s puck drop is set for 6 p.m. Central Time at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Rockford this season holds a 4–4–1 record against the Wild in their nine previous meetings. Sunday’s puck drop at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford is also set for 6 p.m. Central Time against the Admirals. Rockford this season holds a 5–5–1 record over the Admirals in their previous 11 meetings.