This past weekend was a big one for the IceHogs. It featured three games in three nights for the sixth time this year, and all of the games were against Midwest Division rivals. A midweek matchup against Abbotsford was also on Rockford’s plate.
Friday, February 24 at Chicago – Like a usual Chicago-Rockford tilt, the chipiness between the two teams showed itself early and often Friday night. Within the first ten minutes of the game, seven penalties for a total of 20 penalty minutes had been doled out between the two teams. The Wolves struck first where it mattered at 14:34 with a flukey goal that was credited to Bill Sweatt. The puck went over the top of the net from behind it, fell in behind Hogs goaltender Carter Hutton, and rolled across the goal line. Joe Lavin tied the game at 4:32 of the second period. Chicago forward Tim Miller just saw his cross-checking penalty expire when Lavin sent a shot from the left circle past Wolves netminder Eddie Lack for his third tally of the year. Newly acquired forward Matt Fornataro gave Rockford their first lead of the contest at 8:14 as he drove to the net and put a Brandon Svendsen pass by Lack, five-hole. Miller, who always seems to score in games against the Hogs, tied the game up at two at 12:46 of the third period as he collected a rebound and lifted a backhanded shot over Hutton. With time winding down in regulation, all-star center Brandon Pirri fired an absolute laser over Lack’s glove from the left circle to give the Hogs the lead back. The goal came at 16:06 and was the Toronto native’s 21st goal of the season. Despite icing the puck three times in the last 1:08, the Hogs managed to hang on for the 3-2 win in their last game at the Allstate Arena this season.
-Rockford outshot Chicago 35-24.
-The Hogs went 0-3 on the power play and they killed off all five of Chicago’s man advantages.
-Pirri and Rostislav Olesz led Rockford in shots on goal as they each registered four.
-Svendsen and Byron Froese each had two assists and were +2. For Froese, it was his first career professional multi-point game. In addition, Froese got in his first professional fight with Wolves all-star defenseman Kevin Connauton at 2:38 of the first period. That tussle didn’t end well for the rookie, as Connauton was the clear winner.
-The scratches were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Chris DiDomenico, and Wade Brookbank (healthy extras).
-Lines and D pairs:
Andrew Shaw – Pirri – Ben Smith
Olesz – Peter LeBlanc – Jeremy Morin
Svendsen – Froese – Fornataro
Brandon Bollig – Rob Flick – Philippe Paradis
Ryan Stanton – Ben Youds
Lavin – Brian Fahey
Simon Danis-Pepin – Shawn Lalonde
Saturday, February 25 vs Milwaukee – Saturday night’s tilt at the BMO Harris Bank Center on sock monkey night saw the Admirals get on the board first, despite the Hogs having an early power play opportunity. At 15:59, Jani Lajunen capitalized on a defensive zone turnover by the Hogs and sent a shot past netminder Carter Hutton’s glove from the right circle. Rockford was forced to kill a 4-on-3, then 5-on-3 power play at the end of the first period, which carried over to the beginning of the second period. They successfully did, courtesy of PK units consisting of Byron Froese, Ben Youds, and Brian Fahey; Ben Smith, Joe Lavin, and Shawn Lalonde; and Hutton. Hutton stoned Kyle Wilson’s shot from Hutton’s left side towards the end of the kill, which gave the Hogs some momentum. Hutton followed that save up by making an almost identical save on Wilson again, this time the shot came from Hutton’s right, and then he made a beauty of a glove save on Brodie Dupont. The Hogs did a great job of killing off a Rob Flick double minor for high-sticking at 3:07 of the third period. Had Milwaukee scored there, be it once or twice, the game would have been pretty much over, especially with Ads goalie Atte Engren’s outstanding play. Rockford carried the play for the majority of the period, but had nothing to show for it, until the 16:13 mark of the third. Brandon Bollig threw the puck on net from a tough angle, below the right circle and at the goal line, but it somehow found its way past Engren. His goal was a perfect example of the old saying, “throw pucks on net and good things happen.” With the team and home faithful fired up, the game went into overtime. Smith, Fahey, Lavin, and Brandon Pirri started the OT. The Hogs had a huge chance to win it early in the free hockey session when Pirri drew a tripping penalty at the 53 second mark. Jonathon Blum took a seat for two and watched his team kill it off. The Ads dodged some bullets in those two minutes as Pirri broke his stick in what would have been a golden opportunity from the right circle and Peter LeBlanc also had a great chance from the slot with Engren down, but nothing came of either. More free hockey was needed as the game was forced to go into a shootout. Hutton stopped each Milwaukee shooter he faced and Pirri, Rostislav Olesz, and Andrew Shaw scored in rounds 2-4 to give Rockford the come from behind victory in which both goaltenders were spectacular.
-Rockford outshot Milwaukee 37-24.
-Both the IceHogs and the Ads failed to convert on their six power plays.
-Pirri led the club with five shots on goal.
-The power play units that were used throughout the game were LeBlanc, Smith, and Froese with Youds and Olesz on the points and Jeremy Morin, Pirri, and Shaw with Matt Fornataro and Fahey manning the blue line. During the power play in overtime, Pirri, Shaw, Olesz, and Fahey were used along with LeBLanc, Smith, Morin, and Youds.
-The scratches were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Philippe Paradis, and Wade Brookbank (healthy).
-The lines and D pairs were the same as Friday night, except Chris DiDomenico was in Paradis’ spot on the 4th line.
Sunday, February 26 vs Chicago – The Hogs and Wolves met each other for the 12th and final time this season on Sunday. The game was chippy again and featured five penalties in the first period and seven in the second period. Hogs goalie Carter Hutton and Wolves goaltender Eddie Lack were strong in net for both squads, and as a result, this tilt went into overtime with no score. Brandon Pirri had a breakaway opportunity midway through the extra time, but he couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. Jeremy Morin was the hero for Rockford as he scored a dazzling tally with 22 seconds left to give the Hogs the win. Morin got around Yann Sauve in the left circle, then slipped the puck around Lack’s left pad for his 12th goal of the year and his second in front of the home crowd.
-Check out Morin’s beauty of a goal here.
-The Hogs outshot Chicago 41-29.
-Rockford went 0-5 on the power play and Chicago went 0-8.
-Brian Fahey led the team with seven shots on goal.
-The power play units were shaken up a bit. The first one with Pirri and Morin remained in tact while the second one now featured Rostislav Olesz, Peter LeBlanc, Brandon Svendsen, and Ben Youds and Byron Froese on the points.
-The scratches, lines, and D pairs were all the same.
Wednesday, February 29 vs Abbotsford – The IceHogs welcomed back former defenseman Brian Connelly to the BMO on Wednesday as the Heat rolled in for their final tilt with Rockford this season. Ben Youds got the Hogs in front at the ten minute mark of the first period with a blast from the right point. The goal came three seconds into their first power play of the night. Abbotsford tied it up 4:39 later with a Ryan Howse deflection out in front off of a Ben Walter shot from the right circle on the power play. Matt Fornataro regained the lead for Rockford 17 seconds later with a shot from the hashmarks on the outside of the left circle. Another former Hog, Akim Aliu, scored on a breakaway at 7:23 of the second period for his seventh tally of the year. The rest of regulation was scoreless and the fans at the BMO were treated to free hockey for a third straight game. The overtime was a scoreless affair and a shootout ensued. This one went seven rounds, with Howse scoring in the bottom of the round to give Abbotsford the win and the extra point that the Hogs so desperately needed.
-A look at each round of the shootout:
Fornataro for Rockford: Lifted the puck over the net.
Walter for Abbotsford: Got one by Hogs goaltender Carter Hutton’s right pad.
Brandon Pirri for RFD: Scored five-hole on Heat netminder Danny Taylor.
Adam Estoclet for ABB: He deked himself into submission.
Rostislav Olesz for RFD: Scored glove side on Taylor.
Greg Nemisz for ABB: Roofed one blocker side on Hutton.
Brandon Svendsen for RFD: Taylor stopped him.
Hugh Jessiman for ABB: He sent a backhander up high on Hutton.
Marc-Olivier Vallerand for RFD: He sent a sick shot past Taylor, blocker side.
Brian Connelly for ABB: Hutton stopped him with the right pad.
Byron Froese for RFD: Taylor made the blocker save.
Dustin Sylvester for ABB: Hit the post.
Peter LeBlanc for RFD: Taylor stopped him.
Howse for ABB: Scores to end the game.
-Abbotsford outshot Rockford 38-33.
-Both teams went 1-5 on the power play.
-Pirri led the Hogs with six shots on goal.
-The scratches were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Jeremy Morin (sick), and Philippe Paradis (healthy).
-Due to recalls and scratches, the power play units looked a bit different:
Olesz – LeBlanc – Chris DiDomenico with Youds and Ben Smith on the points
Paul Zanette – Pirri – Vallerand with Fahey and Fornataro on the points
-The lines were also jumbled a bit:
Smith – Pirri – Fornataro
Olesz – LeBlanc – Vallerand
Svendsen – Froese – DiDomenico
Wade Brookbank – Rob Flick – Zanette
Ryan Stanton – Youds
Joe Lavin – Fahey
Simon Danis-Pepin – Shawn Lalonde
-Friday, February 24 – Carter Hutton signed a two-way deal with the Blackhawks and was reassigned to Rockford.
-Monday, February 27 – Forwards Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig were recalled to the Blackhawks and Paul Zanette was reassigned to Rockford from Toledo.
-Wednesday, February 29 – Marc-Olivier Vallerand was signed to a PTO. (Read the official release here).
-On Tuesday, February 28th, the IceHogs named defenseman Brian Fahey as team captain for the remainder of the season. Defenseman Ryan Stanton and forward Rostislav Olesz were named alternate captains; they had started wearing their A’s on Friday night.
-The next Hog Talk is Monday, March 5th. Forward Matt Fornataro, goaltender Carter Hutton, and assistant coach Ben Simon are slotted to be on the show. Catch the program on 100.5 NTA FM, online at nta.fm, or in-person at Granite City Food and Brewery in Rockford.
-Check out this beauty of a video with Stephen Nelson, Jeremy Morin, and Brandon Pirri.
-Here’s a quick look at 8th – 15th place in the Western Conference standings:
8th – Peoria – 58 GP – 30-25-2-1 – 63 pts
9th – Milwaukee – 55 GP – 29-22-2-2 – 62 pts
10th – Rochester – 56 GP – 26-21-6-3 – 61 pts
11th – Lake Erie – 57 GP – 27-25-2-3 – 59 pts
12th – Grand Rapids – 53 GP – 23-21-5-4 – 55 pts
13th – Hamilton – 56 GP – 25-26-1-4 – 55 pts
14th – Rockford – 57 GP – 24-26-2-5 – 55 pts
15th – Texas – 55 GP – 24-27-2-2 – 52 pts
Friday, March 2 at Milwaukee at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at Peoria at 7:00 p.m.