Two divisional games and the lone home game against Toronto this season were on the IceHogs’ plate in weeks 11 and 12 before they made their way into their four day holiday break. They looked to keep their momentum rolling and give the fans at the BMO Harris Bank Center some victories as early gifts.
Friday, December 16 vs Peoria – The Hogs and Rivermen were at it yet again Friday night in Rockford. The Hogs jumped on the board first at 15:04 with a power play blast from the high slot, courtesy of Brian Connelly. Andrew Shaw provided the traffic in front of Rivs goalie Jake Allen on the play. Allen was the difference in the first period and the beginning of the second. If it wasn’t for him, the Hogs would’ve been up 4-0 due to their dominant play. Some of Allen’s saves included a point blank glove save on Dylan Olsen and a toe save on Jimmy Hayes after Peter LeBlanc sweetly set him up. Jonathan Cheechoo tied the game up for Peoria at 4:59 of the second with his ninth tally of the year. Derek Nesbitt gave Peoria the 2-1 lead at 13:55 and then Tyler Shattock increased the lead to two as he tipped in a pass from Rivs captain Adam Cracknell at the top of the crease. The whole rush into the Rockford zone was actually a very pretty one as the Rivs had a three man passing play going. Brandon Pirri got the Hogs within one at 1:40 of the third. His innocent looking shot from the top of the left circle somehow got past Allen low glove side. That was one he would love to have back. At 7:08, from around the bottom of the right circle, Chase Polacek gave Peoria their two goal lead back after corralling a bounce off of the boards and firing it home past Hogs goalie Alec Richards. It was Polacek’s first of the year. Anthony Nigro got an empty net goal with 59 seconds left to give Peoria the 5-2 lead and the victory.
-Rockford outshot Peoria 44-31.
-The Hogs went 1-4 on the power play and Peoria went 1-2.
-Brandon Segal and Shaw both fired a team high seven shots on net for Rockford.
-Hayes got in his first professional fight at 10:24 of the first period. He dropped the mitts with Brett Ponich and held his own.
-The lines were shaken up Friday night; only LeBlanc’s line stayed the same:
Shaw – Pirri – Segal
Rostislav Olesz – LeBlanc – Hayes
Rob Flick – David Gilbert – Brett McLean
Brandon Bollig – Byron Froese – Philippe Paradis
-The D pairs were the same as they have been.
-Kyle Beach (shoulder), Alexander Salak (lower body), Jeremy Morin (suspended), and Ben Youds (healthy) were the scratches.
Saturday, December 17 vs Milwaukee – The Hogs looked to redeem themselves Saturday night against the Admirals after their shootout loss to the Ads last Sunday. Rockford got the first tally of the evening with LeBlanc’s ninth of the year, which came on the power play. Pirri’s shot from the right circle was deflected in by LeBlanc as he and Ben Smith provided traffic in front of Ads goaltender Jeremy Smith. Smith was strong in the first period with Rockford coming at him in droves. He made a great save on a Ben Smith redirect on a power play and stoned a McLean backhanded attempt not long after the power play expired. Jonathon Blum tied the game up for Milwaukee with a shot from just inside the blue line. His shot appeared to hit a couple of bodies on its way to the net and past Hogs goalie Carter Hutton. At 4:57 of the second period, Pirri gave the Hogs the lead back on the power play. He fired a shot home from the right circle after a cross-slot pass from Olesz. Smith continued to be stellar for Milwaukee as he robbed Segal for the second time on tip chances and then flashed the right pad out to stop LeBlanc on the doorstep after a Connelly setup from below the goal line. Bollig was able to beat Smith high blocker side for his first of the year at 15:15 of the period to make it 3-1. Pirri tallied his second of the night and 13th of the season at 9:58 of the third period. The puck took a fortunate bounce off of a stanchion and came right to the front of the net and all Pirri had to do was fire it into the empty cage as Smith had left his net in order to get the ring-around. Blum got his second tally of the game for Milwaukee with 54.3 seconds left in the game, but the IceHogs still held on for the 4-2 victory.
-Rockford outshot Milwaukee 44-30.
-The Hogs went 3-5 on the power play and the Ads went 1-3.
-Pirri led the team with seven shots on goal. He now has a five game point streak with 3 goals and 6 assists. He is also 7th in scoring in the entire AHL (13 G, 18 A, 31 pts).
-Bollig and Zack Stortini dropped the gloves for the second time this season in the second. Stortini got the best of that bout. Olsen and Ryan Flynn had a throwdown towards the end of the period as well, and Olsen won that one.
-Flick was a healthy scratch in favor of Smith.
-Morin served the last game of his suspension Saturday night.
Wednesday, December 21 vs Toronto – The Marlies made their annual trip to Rockford Wednesday night. Ben Scrivens started in net for the baby Maple Leafs and made some strong saves early on, which seems to be the story with goalies opposing the Hogs lately. There was nothing happening offensively for either team in the first two periods. The Hogs came close to scoring twice as Connelly and Ryan Stanton drew iron at the beginning and the end of the second period, respectively. Luca Caputi had one of the better chances for Toronto in the frame as he had a breakaway, but Hutton shut him down. Jerry D’Amigo, former teammate of Pirri’s at RPI and of Morin’s on Team USA, lit the first lamp of the game at 1:52 of the third period with a bullet of a shot from the left hashmarks. Smith tied the game at 10:21 as he redirected a LeBlanc shot from the point in from out front. Marcel Mueller got the late go-ahead goal for the Marlies as he tipped in a feed from Joe Colborne at the top of the crease at 17:35. D’Amigo gave the Hogs a golden opportunity to re-tie the game as he took a delay of game penalty at 18:34. Hutton was pulled for the sixth attacker, but Mike Zigomanis and Ryan Hamilton tallied two empty net, shorthanded goals at 18:54 and 19:41 to seal the win for Toronto.
-Rockford outshot Toronto 31-28.
-The Hogs went 1-4 on the power play and the Marlies were held scoreless on all five of their power play chances.
-McLean, Segal, and Smith each registered four shots on goal.
-Youds was the lone healthy scratch as the lineup was shaken up, yet again, due to recalls to the Blackhawks:
Bollig – Smith – Segal
Shaw – McLean – Gilbert
Olesz – LeBlanc – Hayes
Flick – Froese – Paradis
Stanton – Connelly
Olsen – Brian Fahey
Joe Lavin – Shawn Lalonde
-The Hogs have tallied at least one power play goal in each of their last three games (12/16, 12/17, 12/21).
-The Hogs are now sitting at a record of 11-15-1-2 with 25 points. They’re still last in the Midwest Division and they’re five points behind Peoria. The Hogs have two games in hand. In the Western Conference, Rockford is also last. The Hamilton Bulldogs are the team in front of them and they have one less game played than the Hogs.
–Friday, December 16 – Smith was reassigned to Rockford.
–Saturday, December 17 – Morin was recalled by the Blackhawks after that night’s game against Milwaukee.
–Wednesday, December 21 – Pirri was recalled by the Hawks due to Marcus Kruger’s injury.
–Thursday, December 22 – Morin and Pirri were reassigned to Rockford and McLean was reassigned to Team Canada so he can play in the Spengler Cup.
Monday, December 26 at Milwaukee at 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 29 at Chicago at 7:00 p.m.