The IceHogs had no choice but to finish week 27 with two wins against Lake Erie, or at the very least come out of Cleveland with three out of the four available points, if they wanted to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference teams battling for a playoff spot. The only question was: could they do it?
Friday, April 6 at Lake Erie – Not only was this a big weekend set of games for Rockford, but it was for Lake Erie as well as they continued to claw their way to the top eight in the West. IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton and Monsters goalie Cedrick Desjardins stopped every shot they faced through the first two periods on Friday night. In this goaltending showdown, Hutton was the first to flinch as he surrendered a goal by Ryan Stoa at 1:56 of the final frame. IceHogs captain Brian Fahey continued to be a clutch player for the team this season as he answered back for Rockford, tying the game at 5:50. Brad Malone tallied the go-ahead goal at 10:45 and Lake Erie wouldn’t look back, taking the game–and a huge two points in regulation–with a final score of 2-1.
-Lake Erie outshot Rockford 36-35.
-The IceHogs were not able to convert on all four of their power plays and the Monsters didn’t convert on any of their three man advantages either.
-Rookie center Phillip Danault and second year center Brandon Pirri led the IceHogs with five shots on goal each.
-Defenseman Eric Baier made his IceHogs debut after previously playing 13 games with Albany this season. He was held scoreless, shotless, penalty minute-less, and was -1.
-The scratches from the game were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Paul Zanette (upper body), Rostislav Olesz (lower body), Rob Flick, Shawn Lalonde (both suspended), Mark McNeill, Simon Danis-Pepin, and Kent Simpson (healthy extras).
Saturday, April 7 at Lake Erie – Carter Hutton and Cedrick Desjardins were back in their respective nets for the match-up the next night. This time, they only stopped all the shots they faced through the first twenty minutes. Jeremy Morin got the visitors on the board first, while on a power play, at 3:44 of the second period with his 17th goal of the year. Rockford defenseman Ryan Stanton tallied his third marker of the year at 11:07 and Peter LeBlanc extended the IceHog lead to 3-0 at 1:19 later with his 23rd tally on the season. David van der Gulik broke Hutton’s shutout with 2:03 remaining in the middle frame. That started the Monsters’ string of four unanswered goals. They tacked on a shorthanded goal from Justin Mercier and power play tallies from Brad Malone and Dean Strong in the third period to give the home team the lead. The IceHogs couldn’t comeback and dropped a second huge game against a team they needed to gain two points on.
-Lake Erie outshot Rockford 29-24.
-The IceHogs went 1-for-4 on the power play and Lake Erie went 3-for-7.
-Morin, Stanton, Peter LeBlanc, and Mark McNeill each registered three shots on goal for the IceHogs.
-Morin’s second period goal marked his 50th career AHL point, and his 53rd career pro point.
-Rookie Phillip Danault tallied his first career professional point with his secondary assist on Morin’s tally.
-Rookie defenseman Connor Goggin registered his second career pro point with his secondary assist on LeBlanc’s goal.
-Kent Simpson was dressed as Hutton’s back-up for Saturday night.
-The scratches were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Paul Zanette (upper body), Rostislav Olesz (lower body), Rob Flick, Shawn Lalonde (both suspended), Alexander Salak, Philippe Paradis, and Simon Danis-Pepin (healthy extras).
Tuesday, April 10 vs Charlotte – Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Checkers, the IceHogs knew their fate: they had been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Despite the news, this was still a huge Midwest Division game. Not only had the Checkers just been blown out of the water by Abbotsford in their last home game of the season 8-2, Charlotte needed to win all four of their last games–all on the road–to clinch a playoff spot without needing any help from other teams. The Hogs knew the Checkers would be ready for this, yet the opponents still scored the first goal. At 5:46 of the first period, rookie forward Brody Sutter tallied his first career professional goal with a shot that got by Hogs netminder Carter Hutton, blocker side. Mathieu Roy added to the Charlotte lead at 3:32 of the second period as his shot from the right circle got past Hutton. Rockford had some good momentum going in their favor while Chris Durno sat in the box for hooking at 4:19 of the third period, but they just couldn’t connect. Jeremy Morin had a chance right out in front, but he hit the crossbar and Brandon Svendsen had a follow up attempt on that play, but missed the net. Checkers netminder Justin Peters stopped Philippe Paradis on a breakaway chance not long after. The play was tough for Paradis as he had a bouncing puck the whole way and wasn’t able to settle it down to get the shot off that he wanted. The Checkers sealed it at 16:52 as defenseman Rasmus Rissanen tallied his third goal of the season with a shot from the left point to give Charlotte the 3-0 lead, and eventually the win.
-Charlotte outshot Rockford 24-22.
-The IceHogs didn’t convert on their five power plays and the Checkers didn’t convert on their three man advantages.
-Morin and Matt Fornataro each had four shots on goal for the Hogs.
-The power play units used throughout the game were:
Morin – Fornataro – Phillip Danault
Peter LeBlanc – Svendsen
Chris DiDomenico – Mark McNeill – Kyle Beach
Joe Lavin – Ben Youds
-The scratches were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Rostislav Olesz (lower body), Rob Flick, Shawn Lalonde (both suspended), Simon Danis-Pepin, Kent Simpson (healthy extras), Brandon Pirri (personal reasons), and Brian Fahey (wife was having a baby).
-Due to Fahey’s absence in the line-up, Svendsen played defense for the majority of the night. He was paired up with almost all of the other five d-men at some point or another during the night.
-The lines and D pairs were jumbled for most of the game, but looked mainly like this:
DiDomenico – LeBlanc – Morin
Paul Zanette – Fornataro – Danault
Wade Brookbank – Byron Froese – Paradis
Terry Broadhurst – McNeill – Beach
Ryan Stanton – Youds
Lavin – Connor Goggin
Eric Baier – Svendsen
-Read this fantastic article on a certain centerman on the IceHogs because everyone should live a Peter LeBlanc appreciation life. (icehogs.com)
-If you’re attending either of the two home games this weekend, or both, you should read this to catch up on what Fan Appreciation Week entails. (icehogs.com)
These are the last two games of the IceHogs’ 2011-12 season.
Friday, April 13 vs Milwaukee at 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, April 14 vs Charlotte at 7:05 p.m.