IceHogs Thursday: Points Keep Slippin’ Away

Photo Credit: Kim Wrona

The IceHogs looked to get February rolling in the right direction at the end of week 20 of the season with a back-to-back set of games against the Chicago Wolves and then match-up against the Peoria Rivermen to start off week 21. With these three divisional games, Rockford had a great opportunity to gain some huge points in the Western Conference Standings, but plans don’t always work out the way they should…

Friday, February 10 vs Chicago – The Wolves were back in Rockford to take on the IceHogs for the ninth time this season Friday night. Ben Smith scored the opening tally at 3:19 of the first period as he collected a clearing attempt and fired the puck home from the left hashmarks while on a power play. Chicago tied it at 12:45 after Nolan Baumgartner somehow found a way to get the puck past Hogs goaltender Alexander Salak as there was just a mass of humanity gathered around him, poking at him, trying to find the puck. Wolves all-star defenseman Kevin Connauton took a penalty after the horn sounded to end the first period for unsportsmanlike conduct after he roughed up Ben Youds for delivering a good jolt to Darren Haydar. With fresh ice during their power play time to start the second period, the Hogs took advantage. Brian Fahey sent an absolute bomb past Chicago netminder Eddie Lack from above the right circle. This tilt had been chippy since puck drop; there were a lot of scrums formed after the majority of the whistles. One of the bigger gatherings happened at 14:33 of the second. The start of the scrum was due to Brandon Bollig crashing into Lack and the net. Everyone paired up with someone and Rob Flick and Antoine Roussel dropped the gloves; Flick got the best out of Roussel in the bout. The IceHogs killed off a late penalty to Rostislav Olesz in the third period and hung on for the 2-1 win.

-Rockford outshot Chicago 29-28.

-The IceHogs went 2-for-3 on the power play and the penalty kill was equally just as solid. Rockford killed off five of the Wolves’ six man advantages.

-Peter LeBlanc led the Hogs with five shots on goal.

-Alexander Salak made his first start in net since December 2nd, when he suffered a lower body injury against Lake Erie. The Czech goaltender was strong in net, despite all of the time he had missed. The defense also played very well in their own zone Friday night.

-Here’s what the power play units looked like on Friday: Brandon Pirri centering Brandon Segal and Jeremy Morin with Joe Lavin and Fahey at the points. Smith centered Olesz and Jimmy Hayes and Youds and LeBlanc manned the points.

-The scratches were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Philippe Paradis and Wade Brookbank (healthy extras).

-Lines and D pairs:

Brandon Svendsen – Pirri – Smith

Olesz – LeBlanc – Hayes

Segal – Chris DiDomenico – Morin

Bollig – Flick – Byron Froese

Youds – Shawn Lalonde

Ryan Stanton – Fahey

Lavin – Simon Danis-Pepin

Saturday, February 11 vs Chicago – The sell-out home crowd was rockin’ early Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. At 3:22 of the first, Brandon Bollig and Matt Clackson dropped the mitts in a spirited bout. Rostislav Olesz got the crowd back on its feet at 6:05 as he tipped in a Ben Youds shot past Wolves goaltender Matt Climie for a power play tally. Michael Davies answered back for Chicago at 14:32 as he managed to put a shot past Carter Hutton through bodies out front for his sixth of the year. Mark Mancari gave the Wolves their first lead of the weekend less than two minutes later with  a shot from a tough angle from below the left circle that beat Hutton high glove side. The Hogs tied the game at two just 1:02 into the second period. Jimmy Hayes was parked out in front of Climie and he got a piece of Shawn Lalonde’s rocket of a shot for Hayes’ seventh tally on the 2011-12 campaign. It didn’t take long for the Wolves to answer back. They tallied two bang-bang goals that came ten seconds apart, at 5:49 and 5:59, that absolutely deflated the Hogs’ sails. The first goal was scored by Nathan Longpre–whose shot came from the right hashmarks–and the second was a bank shot off of Hutton courtesy of Stefan Schneider. IceHogs head coach Ted Dent called a timeout to slow the game back down, but it didn’t help the Hogs a whole lot. Mancari’s 20th snipe of the year at 8:23 gave Chicago a 5-2 lead and ended Hutton’s night. Alexander Salak came in to relieve the Thunder Bay, Ontario, native in an effort to get the home team going again. The five goals Hutton gave up weren’t all his fault–the defense needed to be better in front of him. The Hogs were dealt a huge blow defensively in the third period. During a stoppage in play while killing off a Rob Flick boarding penalty, defenseman Ryan Stanton left the ice in obvious discomfort with the trainer and team doctors in tow. Eventually, Antoine Roussel added an empty net, shorthanded goal for the Wolves at 16:51 to make it 6-2 and for the Interstate 90 rivals to split their two game weekend series.

-Rockford outshot Chicago 41-36.

-The IceHogs went 1-5 on the power play and the Hogs killed off all five Wolves power play opportunites.

-Lalonde and Olesz led the Hogs with four shots on goal each.

-The scratches were Kyle Beach (shoulder), Wade Brookbank, and Chris DiDomenico (healthy).

-Lines and D pairs:

Brandon Svendsen – Brandon Pirri – Ben Smith

Olesz – Peter LeBlanc – Hayes

Brandon Segal – Byron Froese – Jeremy Morin

Philippe Paradis – Flick – Bollig

Youds – Lalonde

Stanton – Brian Fahey

Joe Lavin – Simon Danis-Pepin

Wednesday, February 15 vs Peoria – Wednesday night was the first time the Hogs and Rivermen had seen each other since December 31st in Peoria. Right off the opening faceoff, two seconds in, Brandon Bollig and Anthony Peluso renewed acquaintances with each other with a long and crowd-energizing fight. Rivs all-star goaltender Ben Bishop was spectacular early in the period. Peter LeBlanc had a wide open net staring at him from his position from the bottom of the right circle. LeBlanc fired the puck on net, but Bishop got his 6-foot-7 self over and made the dazzling glove save. For the most part, the Hogs dominated the first period. At one point, the shots were 8-1 in Rockford’s favor and at the end of the period, they were 14-5. Unfortunately, Peoria took all of the momentum the Hogs had away as Peluso tipped in a Brennan Evans shot from the left point for his second tally of the season. The score stayed that way for the rest of the period, with the Hogs increasing their shot lead to 29-9. Brandon Pirri had a golden opportunity to tie the game at the beginning of the third. The all-star center found himself on a breakaway, tried to go five-hole on Bishop, but the netminder made the save. Ryan Stanton, who was in the lineup despite leaving the last game early, shook himself up again with less than four minutes to go in regulation, and while on the penalty kill, Stanton drove through Peoria’s zone and crashed into Bishop. Stanton stayed down for awhile before getting back up to his feet. The trainer looked like he wanted to lead the defenseman back to the dressing room, but Stanton went back to the bench instead, where he stayed for the rest of the game. When he was making his way back over to the bench, Stanton appeared to be favoring his left leg, but it was tough to tell for sure. The Hogs had a power play with 2:12 left in regulation, but were unable to convert, even with Alexander Salak on the bench for the extra attacker. One of the best chances on that power play came on a Jeremy Morin stuff-shot, but Bishop was there with those long legs to stone him and give Peoria a huge win against a divisional opponent and a team chasing them in the standings.

-The final shots on goal totals ended up being 42-13 in Rockford’s favor.

-A big reason why the Hogs didn’t win this hockey game, besides Bishop’s play, was the fact that they weren’t able to convert on any of their seven power plays. Meanwhile, the Hogs killed off all three Peoria power plays and didn’t allow the Rivs to have a pp until 5:44 of the third period when Brandon Svendsen took a seat for interference.

-Pirri and Ben Smith each had a team high seven shots on net in this contest.

-The main power play units were the same as the last couple of games for Rockford. The Hogs had a 5-on-3 power play for 32 seconds in the first and the players that took the ice for that were: Morin-Smith-LeBlanc with Pirri and Rostislav Olesz on the points. For the late 4-on-3 pp in the third, Olesz-LeBlanc-Jimmy Hayes and Pirri were out there.

-The scratches were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Philippe Paradis, and Wade Brookbank (healthy).

-Lines and D pairs:

Smith – Pirri – Byron Froese

Olesz – LeBlanc – Hayes

Segal – Chris DiDomenico – Morin

Bollig – Rob Flick – Svendsen

Ben Youds – Shawn Lalonde

Stanton – Brian Fahey

Joe Lavin – Simon Danis-Pepin

Roster Notes

Friday, February 10 – Dylan Olsen was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks and Simon Danis-Pepin was reassigned from Toledo to Rockford.

Tidbits

-The IceHogs currently sit in 14th in the Western Conference standings with a record of 21-25-1-4 (47 points, 51 GP). In reality, they’re tied with Hamilton for 13th, but the Bulldogs have two games in-hand on Rockford. The Texas Stars are in last, but they’re only one point behind the Hogs and the Stars have one less game played. The Abbotsford Heat currently hold the 8th spot in the Conference with a record of 26-20-3-0 (55 points, 49 GP).

-Hog Talk is back on Monday. The guests on the show will be forward Kyle Beach, defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin and assistant coach Ben Simon. Catch the show on 100.5 NTA FM, online at nta.fm, or in person at Granite City Food and Brewery in Rockford.

Upcoming Games

Friday, February 17 at Toronto at 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 18 at Hamilton at 6:00 p.m.

 

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