The IceHogs wrapped up the 2011 calendar year against two more divisional opponents in the Charlotte Checkers and the Peoria Rivermen. The tilt against the Rivs also started a season long seven game road trip for Rockford; the Hogs won’t be back at the BMO Harris Bank Center until January 16th.
Friday, December 30 vs Charlotte – The Hogs and Checkers met for the fourth time this season on Friday night and the home team got off to a great start. At 5:21 of the first period, Brian Connelly blasted a shot from the left point that beat Charlotte goaltender Mike Murphy high glove side. The goal came on a very long delayed penalty call sequence. 36 seconds later, Matthew Pistilli tied the game on a rocket from the left circle after Zach Boychuk fed him the biscuit on a two-on-one rush. Chris Terry gave the Checkers their first lead of the game at 8:12 and Jerome Samson made it a two goal lead at 15:02 on Samson’s 13th tally of the year. His wicked shot from the left point beat Hogs goaltender Alec Richards with a lot of traffic in front. The Hogs cut their deficit to one at 17:37 of the period. Jeremy Morin led a beautiful rush up the ice down the left wing boards and then dished the puck over to Dylan Olsen at the point. With Andrew Shaw providing net front presence, Olsen bombed a shot, Murphy gave up a rebound, and Shaw was able to grab it and score for his 12th goal of the season. Richards came up huge for Rockford at the beginning of period two. He made a nice glove save on Chris Durno and then stoned Jon Matsumoto by flashing out the right pad. He also stopped Durno, again, on a shorthanded breakaway. Peter LeBlanc tied the game up at three with a shot from the slot at 17:24. The third period was a tightly contested one and was well played by both teams. All game, Morin and Durno had been going after each other, and it continued in the third before faceoffs and during play. At 12:47, they both got minors for high sticking and Morin got an extra two for roughing. That power play could’ve been a major turning point in the game, but the Hogs killed it off.
The game went into overtime and Morin almost won it with 3.2 seconds left. He attempted a stuff shot at the right post from below the goal line, but Murphy was able to melt it down for the whistle. The game went crazy after that as the net was knocked off its moorings and players were gathered on the ice in the crease. Morin dove into the pile and Durno began punching Ryan Stanton from behind. Morin quickly was on top of that and stopped Durno. They traded a few blows before Morin took him down. Meanwhile, Mathieu Roy dragged Connelly out of the pile, as Connelly was trying to stop Durno from punching Stanton, and Stanton and Michal Jordan started a second fight, which appeared to be more of a shoving match than anything. The two defensemen received game misconducts along with their five minutes for fighting. The game went into a shootout. Terry, Justin Krueger, and Cedric McNicoll all scored for Charlotte while Byron Froese, Brandon Pirri, and Morin all failed to convert for Rockford, giving the Checkers the 4-3 win.
-Charlotte outshot Rockford 35-29.
-The IceHogs went 0-4 on the power play and the Checkers went 0-3.
-Stanton led Rockford in shots on goal as he registered five.
-David Toews made his AHL debut Friday night. He was -1 and didn’t have any points, shots, or penalty minutes.
-Ben Smith was an alternate captain with Brett McLean gone at the Spengler Cup.
-LeBlanc’s goal was his 50th pro point.
-Kyle Beach (shoulder), Alexander Salak (lower body), Philippe Paradis (sick), Rostislav Olesz (undisclosed injury), and Shawn Lalonde (upper body–not a concussion) were all scratched.
-Lines and D pairs:
Morin – Pirri – Shaw
Froese – Chris DiDomenico – Brandon Segal
David Gilbert – LeBlanc – Smith
Brandon Bollig – Rob Flick – Toews
Stanton – Connelly
Joe Lavin – Brian Fahey
Olsen – Ben Youds
Saturday, December 31 at Peoria – Alec Richards got the start again Saturday night for the last game of 2011. Brett Sonne got things going for Peoria at 7:40 of the first period with a shorthanded, dazzling tally, which was his fifth of the year. Captain Brandon Segal answered back for Rockford at 4:17 of the second period. Cade Fairchild scored at 14:09 on the power play to give Peoria their lead back. 30 seconds into the final frame, Brandon Pirri sent an absolute wicked laser shot from the left circle past Rivs goalie Ben Bishop high blocker side. That was Pirri’s 14th goal of the season, which is also a team high. The game had been chippy the whole time, as usual with a Hogs and Rivs matchup, but it got even crazier at 6:47. Andrew Shaw and Brennan Evans dropped the gloves and Jeremy Morin jumped in to help at the end. As a result, he was tagged with a game misconduct for being the third man in the fight. Stefan Della Rovere also received a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct. Losing Morin for the rest of the third hurt the Hogs’ chances of getting the lead for the first time of the game and it hurt them as they tried to tie the game back up after 11:24 as Phil McRae tallied for Peoria on the power play to give the Rivs the 3-2 lead. The officiating had been questionable all game and Hogs head coach Ted Dent had enough after a couple of more missed calls. He smashed a stick on the bench and threw it on the ice and he was also handed a game misconduct. That’s the second time this year that has happened to him in Peoria. Richards was pulled late for the sixth attacker, but the Rivs held on for the victory.
-Rockford outshot Peoria 37-26.
-The IceHogs went 1-5 on the power play and the Rivs went 2-8.
-Pirri led the Hogs as he registered eight shots on goal.
-Brian Connelly played in his 200th professional game on Saturday night.
-There was a total of 102 penalty minutes handed out on Saturday night between the two teams.
-The lineup was the same as Friday night.
–Friday, December 30 – David Toews was recalled to Rockford on loan from the Toledo Walleye.
–Monday, January 2 – Brett McLean was reassigned to Rockford from Team Canada at the Spengler Cup.
–Tuesday, January 3 – Andrew Shaw signed a three year entry level contract with the Blackhawks.
–Wednesday, January 4 – Dylan Olsen was recalled to the Blackhawks and Shaw was added to the Hawks’ active roster. Toews was also returned to Toledo.
–Thursday, January 5 – Defenseman Dan Henningson signed a PTO with the IceHogs. He has a goal and two assists in 23 games with the Chicago Express of the ECHL. With Olsen in Chicago, this signing is a strong sign that Shawn Lalonde will not be ready for Friday’s contest against the Houston Aeros, although nothing has been officially said by the team.
-On Wednesday, Brandon Pirri was named to the AHL’s Western Conference all-star roster. Pirri leads the Hogs in scoring with 32 points (14 G, 18 A) and is 9th in scoring in the entire AHL. To vote for Pirri to be in the starting lineup for the Western Conference, go to theahl.com or to the AHL’s Facebook page at facebook.com/theahl. The All-Star weekend is being held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The skills competition will be on Sunday, January 29th and the game will be on Monday, January 30th.
Friday, January 6 at Houston at 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, January 7 at Texas at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 8 at Texas at 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 11 at Chicago at 11:00 a.m.