The IceHogs finished their three game road trip with a couple of games in Texas and then headed home for their final tilt of the season against Hamilton. As the days go on in the stretch run, every game’s two points become more and more valuable for the Hogs as they continue to fight for their playoff lives.
Friday, March 16 at Houston – The Texas swing of the road trip had the Hogs taking on the Aeros in Houston on Friday night. Justin Fontaine got the home team on the board first at 4:23 of the first period and former IceHog Jeff Taffe tacked on another tally for Houston at 7:11 to make it 2-0. Peter LeBlanc cut the Rockford deficit to one at 15:01 with his 21st marker of the year; it was also a power play goal. The Aeros regained their two goal lead with 16 ticks left in the period off of the stick of Kris Fredheim. Fontaine added his second of the evening, and 15th on the season, at 7:42 of the middle frame. With time winding down in regulation, Rob Flick single-handedly brought Rockford to within one. The rookie center tallied two goals in 23 seconds, the first coming at 16:19 of the third period. But that was as close as the Hogs got and they dropped the decision 4-3.
-Both teams fired 29 shots on goal.
-The IceHogs went 1-for-4 on the power play and they killed off two of the Aeros’ three man advantages.
-Houston center Carson McMillan was awarded a penalty shot at the end of the second period. Hogs goaltender Alexander Salak was able to make the save though.
-Flick was +2 on the night.
-Defenseman Ben Youds led the Hogs in shots on goal with five.
-The scratches from Friday night were: Kyle Beach (shoulder), Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Brandon Pirri (lower body), Paul Zanette (upper body), and Simon Danis-Pepin (healthy).
-Defenseman Connor Goggin made his professional debut. He finished the night even and with a minor penalty for hooking.
-There were a lot of other firsts for the IceHogs on Friday night: David Gilbert and Marc-Olivier Vallerand both were involved in their first professional fights, Flick had his first professional multi-goal game, and Ben Youds had his first pro multi-assist game.
Saturday, March 17 at San Antonio – The IceHogs aren’t known around the AHL for having an offensive penalty kill. The team only had two short-handed goals on the season, with one coming as an empty netter. Jeremy Morin was able to notch the team’s third shorty on Saturday night at 11:23 of the first period to grab the early lead for Rockford. The goal was also the former Kitchener Ranger’s first professional shorty of his career. Matt Fornataro added his eighth goal of the year at the 13:00 mark of the third period and Peter LeBlanc sealed the game with 1:06 to play with an empty net goal. Rockford’s 3-0 win was goaltender Carter Hutton’s third shutout of 2011-12 with the club.
-Rockford outshot San Antonio 41-26.
-The Hogs went 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off both of the Rampage’s power plays.
-Captain Brian Fahey was +3 on the night. He also registered an assist–which was his 250th pro point–and fired three shots on net.
-Joe Lavin, Morin, and LeBlanc were each +2. LeBlanc led the team with five shots on goal as well.
-The IceHogs made a clean sweep of the three stars on Saturday: 1 – Morin 2 – Hutton 3 – Fornataro
-The scratches were the same, except Marc-Olivier Vallerand was out of the lineup as a healthy scratch in favor of Paul Zanette.
Tuesday, March 20 vs Hamilton – The IceHogs’ return to the BMO Harris Bank Center after their three game road trip didn’t go the way they would have liked it to go. Brian Willsie scored at 8:37 of the first period for Hamilton and then Joonas Nattinen added his ninth goal of the year at 5:05 of the second period while the Bulldogs were on a power play, giving Hamilton the 2-0 lead. Jeremy Morin got one back for Rockford at 9:55 with a five-on-three power play goal. Philippe Paradis was causing havoc out in front of ‘Dogs netminder Robert Mayer and Morin sent his wrist shot high glove side. A scary moment for Rockford came early in the third period after Rostislav Olesz led a two-on-one rush into Hamilton’s zone with Peter LeBlanc. Olesz feathered a pass over to his centerman on the right wing and LeBlanc got the shot off, but Mayer stopped him in his tracks. LeBlanc went down after the shot and rammed himself into the boards. He was down on the ice for a couple of minutes and when he returned to his feet, he gingerly went back to the bench. He never missed a shift though. Hamilton tacked on a short-handed, empty net goal with 1:02 to play in regulation, giving them the 3-1 win. The Hogs were pressing and had plenty of power play opportunities in the third to get the equalizer, but Mayer was solid all night for the visitors.
-Rockford outshot Hamilton 36-19.
-The IceHogs had seven power plays and were only able to convert on one of them. The Bulldogs went 1-for-4 on their man advantages.
-LeBlanc and Ben Youds each registered five shots on goal.
–Power play units from Tuesday included:
Morin – Rob Flick – Matt Fornataro
Joe Lavin – Brian Fahey
Shawn Lalonde took Fahey’s spot for a bit in the third period.
Olesz – Byron Froese – LeBlanc
Youds – Chris DiDomenico
Paradis – LeBlanc – Olesz
Fahey – Youds
The unit head coach Ted Dent put out on the ice for the 5-on-3 power play was:
Olesz – Paradis – Fornataro
LeBlanc – Morin
-The scratches on Tuesday night were the same as the last game, except rookies Mark McNeill and Terry Broadhurst were added to the healthy scratch list.
-The lines and D pairs:
Olesz – LeBlanc – DiDomenico
Morin – Fornataro – Brandon Svendsen
Paul Zanette – Froese – David Gilbert
Wade Brookbank – Flick – Paradis
Ryan Stanton – Youds
Lavin – Fahey
Connor Goggin – Lalonde
-Carter Hutton got the start between the pipes for Rockford.
–Friday, March 16 – Goaltender Carter Hutton was recalled to the Blackhawks because Ray Emery was ill. As a result, the IceHogs signed goalie Andrew Volkening to a PTO.
–Saturday, March 17 – Carter Hutton was reassigned to Rockford from the Blackhawks and Andrew Volkening was released from his PTO.
–Tuesday, March 20 – One of the Blackhawks’ 2011 first round picks, center Mark McNeill, was reassigned to the IceHogs by the Blackhawks from his junior team, Prince Albert of the WHL. Winger Terry Broadhurst was signed to an ATO. Broadhurst is the older brother of Alex Broadhurst, who the Hawks drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft.
-Wednesday, March 21 – Marc-Olivier Vallerand was released from his PTO with the club. He had been a healthy scratch for the past two games. David Gilbert was reassigned to the Toledo Walleye.
-Monday’s guests on Hog Talk are supposed to be forward Kyle Beach, defenseman Connor Goggin, and assistant coach Ben Simon. Catch the program on 100.5 NTA FM, online at nta.fm, or in-person at Granite City Food and Brewery in RockVegas.
-8th through 15th in the Western Conference standings (before Thursday night’s games were final):
8th – Rochester – 64 GP – 31-23-6-4 – 72 points
9th – Lake Erie* – 66 GP – 32-26-3-5 – 72 points
10th – San Antonio* – 64 GP – 33-26-3-2 – 71 points
11th – Grand Rapids* – 63 GP – 29-24-6-4 – 68 points
12th – Milwaukee – 62 GP – 31-27-2-2 – 66 points
13th – Rockford – 65 GP – 29-29-2-5 – 65 points
14th – Hamilton – 64 GP – 28-29-2-5 – 63 points
15th – Texas – 64 GP – 27-33-2-2 – 58 points
* indicates that those teams are playing tonight.
Friday, March 23 vs Houston at 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 24 vs Houston at 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 25 at Milwaukee at 3:00 p.m.