Attempting to end a three-game skid, the Rockford IceHogs topped the Chicago Wolves on Friday night in overtime 3-2, making the Illinois Lottery Cup series 3-2 in favor of the Wolves for the season and remained perfect against the Grand Rapids Griffins during 2017-18 with a 3-2 shootout win. Rockford started December on a four-game win streak, followed it up with a three-game losing streak, and now find themselves with the start of another win streak heading into the Holiday break.
Friday: Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 3-2 (ot)
It took just 41 seconds for the score sheet to get populated as the IceHogs took the early lead on a backhand goal from Alexandre Fortin. His second goal of the season, Fortin broke down the middle of the ice and out-muscled two Chicago defenders to control the puck and put it past Max Lagace.
The IceHogs and Wolves seemed to trade-off scoring chances through the rest of the period until Rockford was called for a delayed penalty. With the goalie pulled, the Wolves were able to tie the game at 1-1 before the penalty was called. Brandon Pirri was able to bang a rebound behind Jeff Glass and the teams headed to the locker rooms knotted at 1-1.
The IceHogs opened the second period with a handful of high-quality chances but couldn’t find the back of the net. It wasn’t until the midway point of the period that the Wolves broke the tie on a Tobias Lindberg breakaway goal, setup by Chris Casto blocking a Viktor Svedberg slapshot. Any momentum the IceHogs had built early in the game slowly faded as the second period went on and the teams would head into the third period, 2-1 Chicago.
Needing a response in the third period, the IceHogs went back to their playbook with what worked earlier in the game: score fast. Just 39 seconds into the period, Tomas Jurco put a shot on net that Lagace saved with a big rebound that David Kampf put home. His sixth goal of the year and the IceHogs tied it up 2-2 early on.
There would be no breakthrough the rest of the period, although both teams continued to generate high quality chances. Lagace made a huge save on a Matthew Highmore wraparound attempt midway through the period, but the game would need overtime.
In the extra period, the IceHogs would control most of the puck possession and with less than a minute left, Highmore found Darren Raddysh on the doorstep to give Rockford the 3-2 win in overtime. Jeff Glass made 23 saves on 25 shots faced to earn his ninth win of the season.
Of note in Friday night’s contest, the IceHogs used two unconventional powerplay units to try to spark the AHL’s worst powerplay. Unit one composed of five forwards: Anthony Louis, David Kampf, Tomas Jurco, Matthew Highmore, and Tanner Kero. The second powerplay unit used a two forwards and three defenseman look with Carl Dahlstrom, Ville Pokka, and Robin Norell controlling the puck near the blue line from point-to-point.
It was an admirable attempt to jump-start the powerplay for Rockford by head coach Jeremy Colliton, but it went unsuccessful against the Wolves in three attempts. Since their four powerplay-goal game on Oct. 28 against the Griffins, the IceHogs have scored four powerplay goals total.
Saturday: Rockford IceHogs def. Grand Rapids Griffins, 3-2 (so)
Looking to continue their success against the defending Calder Cup Champion Griffins, the IceHogs got on the board first in the second period as David Kampf netted his seventh goal of the year off an Anthony Louis rebound. Kampf’s second goal of the weekend gave the IceHogs the 1-0 lead midway through the middle frame. The lead wouldn’t last long though as the Griffins got on the board with a goal from Matt Lorito to tie it up 1-1 just over a minute later.
The teams would enter the third period tied 1-1 and it would remain that way until five and a half minutes into the period as Tomas Jurco gave the IceHogs the lead back at 2-1. Jurco’s tenth goal of the year and third point of the weekend, he now leads Rockford in scoring for active roster players with 21 points (10G, 11A) in 29 games played.
Rockford held the 2-1 lead late into the third period, but on the final rush of the game with a powerplay and the net empty, Matthew Ford tipped in a controversial goal past Jeff Glass to tie the game at 2-2 with just 1.7 seconds left on the clock. It’s the second time in the last five games that the IceHogs allowed a game-winning or tying goal in the final seconds of a game.
The teams would head to overtime, tied at 2-2 and even with the extra five minutes, the teams couldn’t find the winning goal, so for the third time in six meetings this season, the Griffins and IceHogs would go to a shootout.
Glass would hold off the Griffins first three shooters while Jurco, Highmore, and Kampf were all stopped by Jared Coreau. It would take Rockford’s fourth shooter, Viktor Svedberg to break the tie. Svedberg ripped a slap shot by Coreau to give the IceHogs the advantage. Jeff Glass would then stop Vili Saarijarvi to give Rockford the 3-2 shootout win and remain a perfect 6-0-0 against the Griffins this year. Glass made 31 saves on 33 shots to earn his tenth win of the year, improving his record to 10-4-2, with a 2.60 GAA and .917 save percentage.
With the back-to-back wins over the weekend, the IceHogs improve to 17-11-2, with 36 points in the standings and a .600 points percentage, good enough for second place in the AHL’s Central Division. The IceHogs trail the Manitoba Moose in the Division by 13 points as the Moose have yet to lose in regulation over their last 16 games (15-0-1).
The IceHogs are off over the Holiday break, but return to action to close out the 2017 calendar year with three games in three days starting on Thursday, Dec. 28. On Thursday, the IceHogs travel to Iowa to take on the Wild before turning around and hosting the Wild on Friday night back in Rockford. Finally, the 2017 calendar year ends for Rockford as they travel to Chicago to take on the Wolves in a Saturday night Illinois Lottery Cup rivalry game. All three games are slated for 7pm CT puck drops.