The end of week 28 brought the end of the 2011-12 season for the IceHogs. The two games on tap were two Midwest Division games against Milwaukee and Charlotte. The Ads and Checkers weren’t going to go down easy as they continued to battle for their playoff lives. But the Hogs weren’t about to give up as this team has no quit and wanted to give the BMO Harris Bank Center faithful something to cheer about for the last time until October.
Friday, April 13 vs Milwaukee – Fresh off their suspensions from the April 1st bench-clearing brawl in Milwaukee, defenseman Shawn Lalonde and forward Rob Flick re-joined the Rockford lineup on Friday night for the last matchup against Milwaukee this year. Jeremy Smith, who was a part of the start of the whole melee, was in net for the Admirals and Alexander Salak got the nod for Rockford. The game was scoreless until 18:04 of the second period, when Michael Latta–who had also been suspended due to the bench brawl game–tipped in a Ryan Thang feed for his 14th goal of the season. Flick made a huge impact in this contest in the third period. At 4:30, he scored his seventh tally of the year to tie the game. Then at 8:06, he dropped the gloves with Latta and decisively won the bout. The game went into overtime and the IceHogs had plenty of opportunities to win it. Defenseman Ryan Stanton had a chance from right out in front, but his shot went wide. Jeremy Morin had a chance, but he hit the post. Then, Brandon Pirri hit the crossbar and eventually a Stanton shot laid loose in the crease for a moment before the Ads were able to clear it. The game went into a shootout and Kyle Wilson got Milwaukee the lead in the first round after Flick missed the net. In round four, Matt Fornataro showed off some beauty moves and lifted a backhander into the net to tie it (The video is from the IceHogs’ Youtube account). Peter LeBlanc’s shot went five-hole on Smith in the fifth round and Salak won it for Rockford with a beautiful glove save on Thang. Their 2-1 win was their tenth against Milwaukee this season and they finished with a 10-1-0-1 record against the rivals to the North.
-Rockford outshot Milwaukee by a very large margin: 36-16.
-Both teams were 0-for-4 on their power plays.
-The power play units for Rockford were:
Fornataro – Pirri – Phillip Danault
Joe Lavin – Ben Youds
Mark McNeill – LeBlanc – Flick
Morin – Brian Fahey
-Philippe Paradis was injured in the second period. When the horn sounded to end the frame, he was favoring his right arm as he walked down the tunnel. He did not return.
-The Hogs almost lost another forward in the third when Scott Ford boarded Brandon Svendsen. Svendsen was down for quite awhile before getting up and skating back to the bench under his own power. He didn’t miss a shift.
-Lavin and Pirri led the Hogs with five shots on goal each.
-The scratches were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Rostislav Olesz (lower body), Carter Hutton, Byron Froese, Connor Goggin, Paul Zanette, Terry Broadhurst, and Simon Danis-Pepin (all healthy extras).
-The lines and D pairs:
Danault – Pirri – Fornataro
Svendsen – LeBlanc – Morin
Chris DiDomenico – McNeill – Kyle Beach
Wade Brookbank – Flick – Paradis
Stanton – Youds
Lavin – Fahey
Lalonde – Eric Baier
Saturday, April 14 vs Charlotte – For the last game of the 2011-12 season, the IceHogs gave rookie goaltender Kent Simpson his first professional start in net; Justin Peters was between the pipes for Charlotte. Peter LeBlanc got the BMO faithful on their feet at 6:26 of the first period. From Peters’ left, he tipped in a beautiful Brandon Svendsen pass for his team leading 24th goal. Nicolas Blanchard tied the game at 12:54 from right out in front of Simpson. Jeremy Morin gave Rockford the lead back early in the second. At 1:01, he got the puck from a bounce off of the end boards and put it by Peters, blocker side. Zach Boychuk tipped in a Bobby Sanguinetti shot from the point for his 21st goal of the season at 8:41 to tie things up at two. The Hogs were faced with a difficult task at the 17:08 mark of the period. They were forced to kill off a Checkers 5-on-3 power play for a minute and forty-two seconds. Matt Fornataro, Joe Lavin, and Ben Youds started the kill and all of the penalty killers did a fantastic job of killing off the great opportunity for Charlotte. Evgenii Dadonov gave Charlotte their first lead of the game at 12:58 of the third with a shot from the left circle. Things began to look bleak for Rockford after that, but then Justin Krueger was called for delay of game at 16:09, giving the Hogs a power play. The Hogs called their timeout with 2:32 to play and 41 seconds left on the power play and pulled Simpson for the extra attacker. Morin, Fornataro, LeBlanc, Brandon Pirri, Rob Flick, and Brian Fahey were out there for the rest of the power play, but it ended despite generating chances. The Hogs had a lot of momentum going for them with their extra attacker and it paid off as Brandon Svendsen tied the game up with 42.5 seconds left in regulation as he put home a Flick rebound right on the doorstep. The game went into overtime, and then a shootout for the second consecutive night. Terry Broadhurst didn’t score in the first round and Simpson stopped the always dangerous Drayson Bowman. Pirri tallied to have Rockford go up 1-0 in the second round, but Justin Shugg countered with a goal of his own. In round three, Flick missed the net and Chris Terry went blocker side on Simpson to give Charlotte the 2-1 lead in the skills competition. Fornataro couldn’t convert in the fourth round and Simpson needed to make a save on Matthew Pistilli to keep the shootout going, but Pistilli scored to give Charlotte the 4-3 win and leave Rockford with just a point in their last game in what was an unforgettable season.
-Charlotte outshot Rockford 42-37.
-The Hogs went 1-for-5 on the power play and the Checkers scored on one of their four man advantages.
-Morin led the Hogs in shots on goal as he registered eight of them.
-Youds, Svendsen, and LeBlanc were each +2 on the night.
-The power play units were:
Phillip Danault – Pirri – Fornataro
Youds – Lavin
Flick – Mark McNeill – Morin
LeBlanc – Fahey
-The scratches were: Ben Smith (right hip labral tear and hernia), Rostislav Olesz (lower body), Philippe Paradis (undisclosed injury), Connor Goggin, Paul Zanette, Chris DiDomenico, Alexander Salak, and Simon Danis-Pepin (all healthy extras).
-The lines and D pairs:
Broadhurst – Pirri – Fornataro
Svendsen – LeBlanc – Morin
Danault – McNeill – Byron Froese
Wade Brookbank – Flick – Kyle Beach
Ryan Stanton – Youds
Lavin – Fahey
Shawn Lalonde – Eric Baier
–Monday, April 16 – The Blackhawks recalled forwards Jeremy Morin (who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday), Brandon Pirri, defensemen Joe Lavin, Ryan Stanton, and goaltender Carter Hutton to be a part of the Black Aces for the playoffs.
-The IceHogs handed out their annual team awards before Saturday’s game. The winners were:
Man of the Year
Rookie of the Year
Most Improved Player
–Here are the final standings for the Western Conference:
all teams played 76 games and a * indicates a division leader
1 – Oklahoma City* – 45-22-4-5 – 99 points
2 – Toronto* – 44-24-5-3 – 96 points
3 – Chicago* – 42-27-4-3 – 91 points
4 – Abbotsford – 42-26-3-5 -92 points
5 – Milwaukee – 40-29-2-5 – 87 points
6 – San Antonio – 41-30-3-2 – 87 points
7 – Rochester – 36-26-10-4 – 86 points
8 – Houston – 35-25-5-11 – 86 points
9 – Charlotte – 38-29-3-6 – 85 points
10 – Lake Erie – 37-29-3-7 – 84 points
11 – Peoria – 39-33-2-2 – 82 poitns
12 – Rockford – 35-32-2-7 – 79 points
13 – Grand Rapids – 33-32-7-4 – 77 points
14 – Hamilton – 34-35-2-5 -75 points
15 – Texas – 31-40-3-2 – 67
-Carter Hutton was 13th in the AHL in goals against average (2.35), 14th in wins (22), 20th in shutouts (3), 20th in saves (1033), and 15th in minutes played (2371:41). Hutton played in 43 games.
-Rostislav Olesz was 14th in players who scored first in the AHL (6 times in 50 GP) and Jeremy Morin was 19th (6 times in 69 GP).
–Brandon Bollig, who hasn’t played in an AHL contest since February 26th because of his recall to the Blackhawks, finished 17th in the AHL in penalty minutes (163 PIMS in 53 GP).
–Rookie Terry Broadhurst finished 20th in shootout percentage. He went 2-for-3.
-Brandon Pirri was 19th in the AHL with 213 shots on goal in 66 games.