IceHogs Thursday: Fighting For Every Point

He's been on fire lately. (Photo Credit: Kim Wrona)

Week 26 was yet another gigantic one for the IceHogs. The three teams that they were up against–Peoria, San Antonio, and Milwaukee–are all teams that they are battling with to get into the playoffs.

Friday, March 30 vs Peoria – The IceHogs and Rivermen faced each other for the final time in 2011-12 on Friday night. The Hogs thought they got on the board first early in the opening period on what would have been the first pro goal for rookie center Mark McNeill, but the referee waved it off. Rockford got on the board for real at 9:10 of the frame. Peter LeBlanc air-mailed a pass into the slot and Rostislav Olesz batted it in as he drove up the middle for his 14th goal of the season (youtube.com). The first period ended 1-0, but it easily could have been 5-0 in Rockford’s favor. Jake Allen was strong in net for the Rivs, stopping breakaways by Shawn Lalonde and Brandon Svendsen, making a glove save on a Brandon Pirri shot from the left circle, and making another highlight reel glove save on a Jeremy Morin shot from the right circle. Jonathan Cheechoo tied the game up at 4:35 while Kyle Beach was in the box for delay of game. The puck popped into the air, landed behind Rockford netminder Carter Hutton, and went across the goal line. Hutton bailed out his teammates in the middle of the period with a beauty of a left pad save on the always dangerous T.J. Hensick, who had a breakaway moments after exiting the penalty box. Olesz quickly got Rockford the lead back in the third period. At 1:56, he notched his second of the night with Derek Nesbitt in the box for hooking. Olesz had a chance to get a hat trick later in the period as Ryan Stanton sauced a beautiful pass over to Olesz, who was stationed at Peoria’s blue line just waiting for the breakaway chance, but Allen made the save. That save proved to be big as moments later, Cade Fairchild’s shot from the blue line got by Hutton at 6:07 to tie the game at two. Cheechoo gave the Rivs their first lead of the night at 12:48 after David Shields found him parked to Hutton’s right and Cheechoo lifted the puck over Hutton for his 23rd tally of the year. The clock was ticking down in regulation with the Hogs pressing for the equalizer, after Peoria had dominated much of the play from the second period on. Olesz came up big with 1:03 to go as he drew a hooking penalty, giving Rockford a last chance attempt on the power play; Beach, Pirri, Olesz, LeBlanc, Brian Fahey, and Matt Fornataro were on the ice for it. With 4.1 seconds left, Fahey got the puck in the left circle and fired it into the net with Allen caught on the opposite side of the crease to tie it and send it into overtime. The momentous goal was the captain’s fifth marker of the year and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Overtime was fast paced and featured a lot of action, but the game had to be decided in a shootout. Nesbitt and Patrick O’Sullivan gave Peoria the early 2-0 lead in the shootout, but Hutton hunkered down, made good saves, and Pirri, Morin, and Fornataro all scored for Rockford as the Hogs stormed back in the shootout to win the game, 4-3.

-Rockford outshot Peoria 31-28.

-The IceHogs went 2-for-6 on the power play and the Rivs scored on one of their four man advantages.

-Fahey and Fornataro led the Hogs with five shots on goal a piece.

-The power play units used in the game were:

Fornataro – Pirri – Rob Flick

Joe Lavin – Fahey

Beach – LeBlanc – Olesz

Morin – Ben Youds

-Rookie defenseman Connor Goggin recorded his first professional point with his secondary assist on Olesz’s first period tally.

-The three stars were: 1 – Olesz 2 – Cheechoo 3 – Fahey

-The scratches for Rockford were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Paul Zanette (upper body), Byron Froese, Terry Broadhurst, Simon Danis-Pepin, and newcomer Phillip Danault (healthy extras).

-Lines and D pairs:

Fornataro – Pirri – Morin

Olesz – LeBlanc – Chris DiDomenico

Wade Brookbank – Flick – Philippe Paradis

Svendsen – McNeill – Beach

Stanton – Youds

Lavin – Fahey

Lalonde – Goggin

Saturday, March 31 vs San Antonio – Just like the previous night, the IceHogs had a goal disallowed early in the opening frame on Saturday. Jeremy Morin, Matt Fornataro, and Brandon Pirri all went hard to the net and Fornataro appeared to have gotten the puck past Jacob Markstrom, but the ref didn’t see it somehow. That should-have-been-goal would come back to bite the Hogs, despite getting the first goal of the game yet again at 13:52 while on the power play. It was very similar to the first tally against Peoria as Peter LeBlanc threw the puck to the front of the net and it went in off of Rostislav Olesz. San Antonio tallied the equalizer at 7:11 of the second period. Former IceHog Bracken Kearns tipped in a Sean Sullivan shot from the blue line with Pirri in the box for boarding. 30 seconds later, Michal Repik gave the Rampage their first lead of the night with his 14th goal of the season as he lifted a backhanded shot over Hogs goalie Carter Hutton, who was down on the play. At 12:13, Pirri tallied the equalizer with a wrister from the slot for his 23rd on the year. 2:35 later, Olesz gave Rockford the lead back again. The veteran tipped in Ryan Stanton’s shot from the right point. With 7:42 left in regulation, former Charlotte Checker Jon Matsumoto re-tied the game at three. No one scored in the remainder of regulation or in overtime, so a shootout was needed to decide the outcome for a second consecutive night. Mark Cullen got San Antonio up 1-0 in the shootout in the first round as his shot went five-hole on Hutton. Terry Broadhurst used some pretty moves to help him score in the fourth round to make things equal again for Rockford. The Hogs just missed grabbing the extra point as James Wright scored in the seventh round to give San Antonio the 4-3 win. On a whole though, Hutton and Markstrom were both strong in the shootout.

-Rockford outshot San Antonio 49-32.

-The Hogs scored on one of their three power plays and killed off one of the two Rampage man advantages.

-Morin, Olesz, and Joe Lavin each had five shots on goal for Rockford.

-The power play units used on Saturday were:

Fornataro – Pirri – Rob Flick

Lavin – Brian Fahey

Olesz – LeBlanc – Kyle Beach

Morin – Ben Youds

-San Antonio’s Drew Shore, in his pro debut, tallied his first career pro point on Matsumoto’s third period goal.

-Phillip Danault, the Blackhawks’ first round (26th overall) pick in the 2011 draft, made his professional debut on Saturday night. He was held off the score-sheet, but registered two shots on goal and two penalty minutes–it was a minor for slashing. He led the Hogs off in the shootout, but Markstrom stopped him as he tried to go five-hole. Overall, he looked great throughout the game. He never gave up on a play–which he showed even at the Hawks’ Prospect Camp in July–and he was flying around out there, showing off his wheels.

-The scratches were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Paul Zanette (upper body), Byron Froese, Simon Danis-Pepin, Mark McNeill, Kent Simpson, and Wade Brookbank (healthy extras).

-Lines and D pairs:

Fornataro – Pirri – Morin

Olesz – LeBlanc – Chris DiDomenico

Philippe Paradis – Flick – Brandon Svendsen

Terry Broadhurst – Danault – Kyle Beach

Stanton – Youds

Lavin – Fahey

Shawn Lalonde – Connor Goggin

Sunday, April 1 at Milwaukee – The IceHogs needed to snag another two points from the Admirals on Sunday to help them in the playoff push. Kyle Beach got the game started out on a good note for the visitors as he tallied his fifth marker on the 2011-12 campaign at 6:04 of the first period; Terry Broadhurst was credited with the lone assist which was his second career pro point. The two teams took a step back into the NHL’s old Norris Division days as a bench clearing brawl broke out at 10:08 of the second period after a “T.V.” timeout. Rob Flick was chirping at Ads netminder Jeremy Smith and Smith threw the first punch in their ordeal. The Milwaukee players were the first to jump off their bench and then the Hogs came off of theirs to join the party. Hogs goaltender Carter Hutton left his crease and came all the way down to the other end and got involved. Rockford defenseman Shawn Lalonde and Milwaukee forward Michael Latta came out of the penalty boxes to join as well. Here’s the video again because it’s worth another watch (youtube.com). Once things calmed down a bit, the teams were sent back to their respective dressing rooms for a full intermission and then returned to finish the period. Hutton and Smith were both handed penalties for fighting and both received game misconducts, which led to Alexander Salak being in net for Rockford and Atte Engren to be in net for Milwaukee. After the real second intermission, and 2:12 into the final frame, Mark Van Guilder scored his 12th goal of the season to tie the game up. The Hogs were on their heels for the majority of the period as they were down four men (two defensemen and two forwards) but managed to hold on and get to overtime and then another shootout. Broadhurst and Brandon Pirri scored in the shootout in the first two rounds and Jonathon Blum tallied in the third round for Milwaukee. In the fifth round, it was up to Salak to stop Kevin Henderson for the win and Henderson didn’t convert. The Hogs gladly walked away with the much needed two points, but having another three point game didn’t help their cause for the most part.

-Milwaukee outshot Rockford 38-36.

-The IceHogs went 0-for-7 on the power play and Milwaukee went 0-for-4.

-Beach led the Hogs in shots on goal with five.

-Here’s a list of all of the penalties assessed from the big ol’ rumble:

-Rockford head coach Ted Dent and Milwaukee head coach Ian Herbers were each given game misconducts.

-Milwaukee defenseman Jeff Foss, forwards Zack Stortini and Latta, and goaltender Smith each received five for fighting and game misconducts.

-Flick was handed two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, five for fighting, and a game misconduct.

-Hutton, Lalonde, and Ryan Stanton each got five for fighting and game misconducts. Jeremy Morin probably should have gotten that instead of Stanton as he was tied up with Foss and Stanton wasn’t.

-This game marked the fourth consecutive contest, and third straight night, that Rockford has gone to a shootout.

-Alexander Salak was named first star of  the game, that lasted three hours and four minutes. Engren and Van Guilder were second and third respectively.

-Rostislav Olesz was left the game in the first period with a lower body injury.

-The lineup was the same as Saturday night.

Roster Notes

Friday, March 30 – Phillip Danault was reassigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks from his junior team in Victoriaville.

Saturday, March 31 – Goaltender Kent Simpson signed an ATO with Rockford after his junior season with the Everett Silvertips ended.

Tuesday, April 3 – Defenseman Eric Baier signed a PTO with the club. He was with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL.

-Rookie center Rob Flick was suspended for three games for his on-ice actions in Milwaukee on Sunday. Defenseman Shawn Lalonde was suspended for three games for leaving the penalty box during the brawl. They will be missing two games against Lake Erie and one against Charlotte. Their returns are set for Friday, April 13 against none other than Milwaukee.

Tidbits

-Also from Sunday’s game,  head coaches Ted Dent and Ian Herbers were fined, Ads netminder Jeremy Smith was suspended for one game and forward Michael Latta was suspended for three games for leaving the box.

-The final Hog Talk of the regular season is on Monday. The guests are supposed to be captain Brian Fahey, forward Jeremy Morin, and assistant coach Steve Poapst.

Here’s yet another installment of “Bacon Buddies” with Stephen Nelson, Rob Flick, and Philippe Paradis. (Youtube)

-Former IceHogs defenseman Brian Connelly was named to the AHL’s Second All-Star Team. To see who made the first and the rest of the second team, read here. (icehogs.com)

-Ben Smith was named the IceHogs’ Man of the Year for his community service throughout the season. (icehogs.com)

-Here’s the jam-packed Western Conference standings from 6th to 15th:

6th – Charlotte* – 69 GP – 35-25-3-6 – 79 points

7th – Houston – 70 GP – 32-23-5-10 – 79 points

8th – Peoria* – 71 GP – 37-30-2-2 – 78 points

9th – Lake Erie – 72 GP – 34-28-3-7 – 78 points

10th – Rochester – 71 GP – 32-26-9-4 – 77 points

11th – Milwaukee* – 69 GP – 35-28-2-4 – 76 points

12th – Rockford – 71 GP – 34-29-2-6 – 76 points

13th – Grand Rapids – 70 GP – 32-28-6-4 – 74 points

14th – Hamilton – 71 GP – 32-32-2-5 – 71 points

15th – Texas* – 71 GP – 30-37-2-2 – 64 points

* indicates those teams are in action tonight

Upcoming Games

Friday, April 6 at Lake Erie at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 7 at Lake Erie at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 10 vs Charlotte at 7:05 p.m.

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