On Friday night, the Rockford IceHogs faced off against one of their top Divisional foes in the Central, taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. After jumping out to a commanding 3-0 lead, the IceHogs fought off a Griffins comeback to win in dramatic fashion in overtime. With the win, the IceHogs snapped a three-game losing streak and remain in a Calder Cup Playoff position, sitting in fourth-place in the Central Division.
Rockford IceHogs def. Grand Rapids Griffins, 5-4 (OT)
The Rockford IceHogs, playing their only game within an 11-day span, hosted the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday night. With the Griffins coming into the game tied for the Central Division lead with the Chicago Wolves, and the IceHogs holding a two-point cushion over the Texas Stars for the fourth and final Calder Cup Playoff spot in the Central, both teams had a ton on the line as far as the Divisional battle goes.
With Collin Delia getting his second-straight start in net since returning to the IceHogs at the end of February, Rockford was able to get on the board early and often.
After giving Delia zero goals of support in his return game against the Wolves, Rockford took a 1-0 lead at the mid-way point of the opening period thanks to a Jordan Schroeder powerplay goal. Just over four minutes later, it would be a 2-0 IceHogs lead after Spencer Watson tipped a shot from Lucas Carlsson. Watson’s first goal with the IceHogs and first goal in the AHL this season gave Rockford a comfortable lead heading toward the final moments of the first period. That was until Dennis Gilbert was able to find a rebound and score his second goal of the season with under two seconds left in the period to give the IceHogs a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Things would begin to get dicey for the IceHogs from then on as the Griffins would net two goals in the second period from Turner Elson and Wade Megan to cut the Rockford lead to 3-2 heading into the third period of action. Less than a minute into the final frame, the Griffins tied the game thanks to a powerplay goal from Matt Puempel, his 21st goal of the year. Things began to turn back in the IceHogs’ favor in the third period when Jordan Schroeder potted his second goal of the game with just over six minutes to go in the contest. Schroeder’s 17th goal of the season gave Rockford a 4-3 lead, but it would be a second goal from Puempel in the period to tie it up at 4-4. The 22nd goal of the season for Puempel would be enough for the Griffins to force overtime.
With both teams securing one point on the night, the all-important overtime point was up for grabs. Delia was able to stop both shots he faced in the four-plus minutes of extra time, and the newly acquired Peter Holland was able to play hero for the IceHogs. Schroeder found an open Holland in the slot from behind the net and he was able to get the game-winner past Harri Sateri with just 36 seconds left in the overtime period for the 5-4 win.
Collin Delia made 24 saves on 28 shots faced to earn his first win since returning to the IceHogs. His record on the season moves to 8-6-4 with a 2.36 GAA and a 0.929 save-percentage.
Jordan Schroeder tallied two goals and an assist on the night for his first three-point game of the season and first since March 16, 2018 with the Cleveland Monsters. Schroeder’s 17 goals this season is his highest total since his 2011-12 season with the Chicago Wolves, where he netted 21 goals in 76 games. Since February 1st, Schroeder has 14 points in 13 games.
Peter Holland played the hero for the IceHogs in overtime, scoring his second goal with the club since joining the team on February 18. Holland has four points in five games with the IceHogs, 53 points in 57 games this season in total, tied for sixth in the AHL in scoring.
Finally, Luke Johnson, Lucas Carlsson, and Henri Jokiharju all tallied two assists apiece for the IceHogs in the overtime win. Jokiharju has 12 points in his 13 games with the IceHogs this season. Lucas Carlsson leads all IceHogs defenders in points with 28 points in 55 games this season, tied for fourth in the AHL for rookie defenders.
Calder Cup Playoff Push
Following Friday night’s win, the IceHogs remain in fourth-place in the AHL Central Division, two points clear of the Texas Stars in fifth-place. Rockford remains the leader in the Division in games played to this point this season.
- Chicago Wolves (56 GP) – 33-17-6, 72 pts
- Grand Rapids Griffins (57 GP) – 31-17-9, 71 pts
- Iowa Wild (57 GP) – 29-17-11, 69 pts
- Rockford IceHogs (59 GP) – 27-23-9, 63 pts
- Texas Stars (57 GP) – 27-23-7, 61 pts
- Milwaukee Admirals (58 GP) – 24-22-12, 60 pts
- Manitoba Moose (57 GP) – 27-25-5, 59 pts
- San Antonio Rampage (57 GP) – 25-26-6, 56 pts
Rockford holds the fourth and final Divisional spot in the Calder Cup Playoff picture, with 16 of their final 17 games to close the year coming against Central Division opponents.
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Saturday, March 9 as they travel to Manitoba to take on the Moose. Rockford will take a full week off between games, allowing for the other Central Division teams to catch up and surpass them in the games played department. After a week off, the IceHogs take on the Moose in back-to-back weekend games in Manitoba on March 9 and 10. Saturday’s puck drop is set for 6pm CT, while Sunday’s puck drop is set for 2pm CT at Bell MTS Place. Rockford holds a 1-0-1 record against the Moose this season.