The IceHogs were looking to continue the roll they were on going into the all-star break with huge matchups against the Wolves and the Monsters. Due to the battle the Hogs are in to get into eighth place in the Western Conference standings, these points on the line could help catapult them up closer to where they need to be.
Friday, February 3 at Chicago – The first game back from the break found the Hogs in Rosemont to take on their Midwest Division rivals. Birthday boy Peter LeBlanc got the Hogs on the board first with a wrister from the high slot at 1:26. The Hogs held onto the lead for the majority of the period until the last minute. With 36.6 seconds to go until the intermission, Tim Miller snuck a shot past Hogs goaltender Carter Hutton as he covered the left post. Miller’s behind-the-back shot was from below the goal line and was the forward’s 12th goal of the year. 11:12 into the second, Wolves center Jordan Schroeder found himself in the box for tripping. Towards the end of the resulting Hogs power play, Chicago netminder Eddie Lack made three great saves as he fought off a bunch of traffic in front of him. This gave Chicago momentum and fourty-two seconds after the kill, Anton Rodin gave the home team the lead with a backhander from the left hashmarks. Michael Davies made it 3-1 with a shot from just under the left circle less than two minutes later. Things began getting very chippy in the third period. At 1:07, there was a scrum in the Wolves’ crease. Brandon Bollig appeared to have been shoving Darren Haydar and then Wolves captain Nolan Baumgartner shoved Bollig. 5-foot-11 Ben Smith didn’t like that so he stepped in and got in a wrestling match with the 6-foot-1 defenseman. All four players got two minutes for roughing. The scrumming continued at 7:35 as Chris DiDomenico and Miller received roughing penalties. DiDomenico got an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct and Bollig and Yann Sauve were tangled up but somehow managed to escape getting tagged with any minors. Emotions really boiled over at 9:51 after Schroeder fell into the Hogs’ net, knocking it off its moorings. He got right up and went after Hogs defenseman Shawn Lalonde. Everyone gathered after that and two fights were the result: Lalonde and Baumgartner along with Bollig and J.P. Testwuide. 26 penalty minutes were doled out from just that scrum alone: Bollig, Lalonde, Baumgartner, and Testwuide got five for fighting, Lalonde got an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct, Testwuide got an extra two for charging, and Brian Fahey got two for hooking. At 13:16, Miller tallied his second of the game as he deflected in a Mark Matheson shot in the left circle. Ben Youds tallied a power play goal with 50 seconds left in the contest to make it 4-2. His shot deflected in past Lack off of a Wolves defender out front, but all it did was change the score.
-Rockford outshot Chicago 32-18.
-The Hogs went 1-7 on the power play and the Wolves went 0-5 on their power play opportunities.
-Youds led the Hogs in shots on goal with five.
-The power play units had a bit of different looks Friday night. One unit was Rostislav Olesz, Brandon Pirri, and Brandon Segal up front with Joe Lavin and LeBlanc working the points. The other unit featured Jimmy Hayes, Smith at center, and Jeremy Morin with Dylan Olsen and Fahey on the points.
-The scratches from Friday were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Alexander Salak (lower body), Wade Brookbank, and Rob Flick (healthy extras).
-Lines and D pairs:
Segal – Pirri – Morin
Olesz – LeBlanc – Smith
DiDomenico – Byron Froese – Hayes
Philippe Paradis – Brandon Svendsen – Bollig
Olsen – Youds
Ryan Stanton – Fahey
Lavin – Lalonde
Wednesday, February 8 vs Lake Erie – The IceHogs took on the Monsters for the second time this season Wednesday night. In their first home game since the all-star break, the Hogs, for the most part, dominated the first period, outshooting Lake Erie 17-7 after one. They had a lot of chances, including a near tip-in goal by Ben Smith. Chris DiDomenico’s pass just missed the second year forward’s stick after they had a brief two-on-one in close. Rostislav Olesz almost gave the home team the lead closer to the end of the period as he was in all alone, but Monsters goaltender 6-foot-5 Gerald Coleman made the glove save. The period ended scoreless, but Lake Erie quickly jumped on the board in the middle frame. At 1:31, Ryan Stoa set up Mark Olver on the left side for the tap-in tally past Hogs netminder Carter Hutton. Justin Mercier extended the Lake Erie lead at 12:50 with his eleventh goal of the season. The left winger grabbed a pass from Brad Malone as he cruised through the deep slot and sent a backhander past Hutton. Smith closed the gap for the Hogs at 15:52 with a power play goal. Smith was able to fire the biscuit into the basket from below the left circle after a beautiful cross-ice pass from Peter LeBlanc. The IceHogs were forced to kill a five-on-three power play early in the third period with Ben Youds in the box for cross-checking and Brian Fahey in there for tripping. Rockford managed to kill off the first penalty, but as soon as Youds came back, and with six seconds left in the kill, former Hog Evan Brophey tapped in a feed from Patrick Rissmiller for his 13th of the season. Malone made it 4-1 at 10:47. Dylan Olsen cut Lake Erie’s lead down to two with a rocket of a shot from the high slot that beat Coleman top shelf with 1:47 left in regulation. Hutton was pulled for the sixth attacker not long after and at 1:01, Luke Walker was called for hooking, giving Rockford a six-on-four power play. The Hogs actually were able to convert off of the stick of Jimmy Hayes after a Smith backhander from the bottom of the left circle with 17.7 seconds left. The comeback fell short though as Brophey won a draw with 11.5 seconds left after an icing call against Lake Erie and he ate up valuable time before the Monsters could clear the zone.
-Rockford outshot Lake Erie 43-32.
-The Hogs went 2-5 on the power play and the Monsters went 1-4.
-Hayes led the Hogs in shots on goal with five.
-The power play had yet another different look Wednesday night. One unit contained Brandon Segal, Brandon Pirri, and Jeremy Morin with the Dylan Olsen-Brian Fahey tandem on the backend. The other unit consisted of Olesz, LeBlanc, and Hayes with Youds and Smith manning the points.
-The scratches on Wednesday night were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Philippe Paradis, and Wade Brookbank (healthy). Alexander Salak backed up Hutton as he returned from his lower body injury. It was his first time back since December 2nd, when he suffered the injury against Lake Erie (of all teams).
-Lines and D pairs:
Segal – Pirri – Jeremy Morin
Olesz – LeBlanc – Hayes
Smith – Byron Froese – DiDomenico
Brandon Bollig – Rob Flick – Brandon Svendsen
Olsen – Youds
Ryan Stanton – Fahey
Joe Lavin – Shawn Lalonde
–Sunday, February 5 – Alec Richards was reassigned to the Toledo Walleye.
-The Hogs’ record now stands at 20-23-1-4 (45 points). They’re tied for 14th in the Western Conference with the Hamilton Bulldogs, who have played two games less than the Hogs; Rockford has played 48 games. Here’s a rundown of 7th through 15th in the West:
7th – San Antonio – 47 GP – 25-20-2-0 (52 points)
8th – Peoria – 47 GP – 24-20-2-1 (51 points) (last playoff spot)
9th – Rochester – 48 GP – 21-18-6-3 (51 points)
10th – Milwaukee – 46 Gp – 24-20-1-1 (50 points)
11th – Lake Erie – 48 Gp – 22-22-2-2 (48 points)
12th – Grand Rapids – 45 GP – 19-18-4-4 (46 points)
13th – Texas – 47 GP – 21-22-2-2 (46 points)
14th – Hamilton – 46 GP – 20-21-1-4 (45 points)
15th – Rockford – 48 GP – 20-23-1-4 (45 points)
-Brandon Pirri is 8th in AHL scoring. In 46 games, he has 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points.
-The guests for next week’s Hog Talk on Monday night are goaltender Alexander Salak, forward Rostislav Olesz, and head coach Ted Dent. Tune into 100.5 FM, online at nta.fm, or in person at Granite City Food and Brewery to catch the show.
Friday, February 10 vs Chicago at 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, February 11 vs Chicago at 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday, February 15 vs Peoria at 7:05 p.m.