Goals by veterans Evan Brophey and Hugh Jessiman were just enough Monday afternoon for the Rockford IceHogs to take a 2-1 victory over the visiting San Antonio Rampage.
Despite a dramatic discrepancy in shots heading into the third period, 24-12 in favor of the IceHogs, the game remained scoreless until Evan Brophey beat San Antonio netminder Matt Climie for his 6th goal of the season. The goal, 13 seconds into the period, ended Brophey’s 5-game goal drought.
Injury-plagued winger Hugh Jessiman struck next , giving Rockford a 2-0 lead when his one-timer from the left-side half wall found the back of the net. Jessiman, who missed a month (Dec 8-Jan 2) with a lower-body injury, had not scored since November 12th. This marked his 3rd goal of the season and first in 10 games.
Rockford has managed to put a string of wins together and put themselves 3 games above the .500 mark as they’ve hit the halfway point of the 80-game AHL season. Before Saturday night’s win in Chicago, the IceHogs hadn’t been more than a game above .500 all season. Monday’s win gives the IceHogs a three-game win streak, their first of such length and longest so far this season.
For the IceHogs, it has been inconsistency and lackluster starts which have plagued them most.
A bad start cost them dearly in a 5-1 home loss to Toronto on Jan 7th. Since then, Rockford has won 4 of their last 5 games and outscored opponents 14-6 overall.
Not all is right, however. The IceHogs power play is atrocious, converting on just two of its last forty-one chances with a man advantage. The power play has been bad long before it lost Nick Leddy. Actually, it got hot ( 5 for 18) for a stretch right after Leddy departed for the World Juniors on Dec 16th.
Coming into the game, Rockford owned a record of 2-5-0-2 when tied after two periods.
Rockford is now 5-3-0-0 in the month of January and 7-3-0-0 over their last ten games.
Andrew Ebbett was responsible for the lone San Antonio marker, striking just a minute and twenty-seven seconds after Jessiman’s tally. The goal was Ebbett’s eleventh and temporarily took the air out of the sparse matinee crowd.
Rob Klinkhammer – Evan Brophey – Kyle Beach
Hugh Jessiman – Ryan Potulny – Jeff Taffe
Mathis Olimb – Brandon Pirri – Igor Makarov
Pete Leblanc – Kyle Hagel – X (Taffe, Beach, Jessiman)
Seven defenseman dressed again as they did in Friday’s home win vs TEX
Ryan Stanton – Brian Connelly
Jassen Cullimore – Shawn Lalonde
Garnet Exelby – Ivan Vishnevskiy
Olsen saw shifts with both Stanton and Exelby. By the third period, Olsen was seeing as much ice time as Exelby, but not as much as Stanton, Cullimore or Lalonde…. Hagel was the victim of Bill Peters short bench in the third as he didn’t have much more than two shifts…. In his second pro game, you can see Olsen isn’t all that far away from being an NHL player. His footwork needs help. Turning and quickness is an issue. But he’s a smart player.
Peters came out in the second period juggling his lines quite a bit. Brandon Pirri, who wasn’t effective at all on Saturday in Chicago, was double-shifted early.
San Antonio came in a tired group. They played at home on Saturday night. Then flew to Chicago for a 5pm game on Sunday at Allstate Arena. Then wrapped up three-games in three days with the 3pm matinee in snowy Rockford.
Knowing this, Rockford’s defense came out in the first period obviously intent on putting bodies on San Antonio’s forwards. But the IceHogs’ forwards weren’t continuing that effort on the other end in the opening 20.
They obviously were reminded in the first intermission though, as everyone, including Pirri, Makarov and Olimb were finishing their checks and throwing some heavy checks, a few which toed the line of charging.
Monday’s game was operated under the 2-referee system. San Antonio came in with the 2nd best power play in the AHL, but only Evan Brophey gave them an opportunity to put that unit into action. The IceHogs had as many chances in that early 2nd period Rampage man advantage as the visitor’s did. No surprise. Despite its effectiveness, San Antonio’s Power Play has already given up 9 short-handed goals against in 44 games.
Rockford will now be off until Friday when Oklahoma City comes to town. Right now the Barons sit 6th in the West division standings, seven points up on the IceHogs. But the IceHogs also have three games in hand as of Tuesday morning and that number will grow to five by the time the Barons arrive at MetroCentre on Friday. Oklahoma City is visiting Lake Erie (North division) tonight and the Barons will visit Milwaukee (West division) on Thursday night. Since the IceHogs wouldn’t appear to have a realistic shot of overtaking Milwaukee at any point in the second half of the season (Milwaukee sitting in first place and 11 points ahead of Rockford, albeit with the IceHogs having two games in hand on them as of today), Rockford will be rooting for both Lake Erie and division rival Milwaukee lend the IceHogs some help this week with a couple of wins against Oklahoma City.
Because of how the season began, every point from here on is an important one for Rockford. And the impending weekend becomes even more important when the Rampage return to MetroCentre on Saturday night for a rematch of the Martin Luther King Day matinee matchup.
No matter the outcomes of this week’s games, Rockford will still reside in 8th and last place in the West division a week from now. That’s how good the West division has been through the half way point. No team is worse than three games above .500 (Chicago Wolves also are 3 games above, but they’ve played six more games than the IceHogs). If you put Rockford in any other division, they’d be no worse than 6th place. However, for at least the next eight days, Rockford will remain in 8th and last in the Western Conference’s West division.
IceHogs current streaks of games held without a goal (reg season only): Jassen Cullimore (46), Ryan Stanton (39), Garnet Exelby (38), Wade Brookbank (21), Simon Danis-Pepin (19), Chris DiDomenico (19), Brandon Pirri (17), Nick Leddy (12), Brandon Bollig (7), Kyle Hagel (8), Mathis Olimb (8), Pete Leblanc (6), Brian Connelly (4), Shawn Lalonde (4), Igor Makarov (4), Jeff Taffe (4), Ivan Vishnevskiy (4), Rob Klinkhammer (3), Dylan Olsen (3), Ben Smith (3), Ryan Potulny (2), Kyle Beach (1), Jeremy Morin (1), Evan Brophey (0), Hugh Jessiman (0)
*Nick Leddy was reassigned to Rockford on Monday. The Blackhawks are off until Saturday, when they visit Detroit at 2pm eastern. This is a move to save money on Chicago’s cap, which would give them slightly more flexibility for a possible move as the Hawks move closer to the deadline.
Here are the facts in this move. Leddy’s cap hit is $6,003.58 per day. If he’s recalled to Chicago on Saturday, and that would seem to make the most sense, that would save about $30,000 in cap space. However, this move also keeps Leddy out of Chicago Blackhawks’ practices. And it also takes roughly twenty grand out of his pocket. Leddy’s actual per day earnings (before escrow) are $4,838.71 per day, while he makes about $362 a day while on the AHL roster. Leddy was a scratch here on Monday since playing would’ve meant three games in three nights for Leddy. Although that’s a regular occurance in the AHL, the IceHogs have yet to do that this year. Their first will be during the second weekend of February (@ TEX, @TEX, @MIL), which is remarkable that it will take that long. Since the IceHogs don’t play again until Friday, don’t expect Leddy to play here this week.
* Jeremy Morin missed the game with an “upper body”. He’s not expected to be out for an extended period of time, at least as of right now. Morin took a nasty fall in the first period on Saturday at Allstate Arena, similar to the one Seattle Seahawks tight end John Carlson did in the Bears’ game the other day. Morin didn’t return Saturday and was obviously a scratch Monday. While no one will say what Morin’s injury is officially, we can describe the play. With a minute and ten seconds to go in the opening period at Chicago on Saturday, Mathis Olimb forced a turnover at the Wolves’ blue line. Morin then took the puck and skated in towards to inside/top of the right circle. As Morin was getting ready to take his shot or deke, Wolves’ defenseman Andrey Zubarev turned and croutched into a hip check that sent Morin flying up and over Zubarev. Morin hit the ice on the top of his head, crunching his head and neck. He was stunned but got up immediately and slowly skated back to the IceHogs bench but did not return to the bench after intermission.
* Ben Smith is also out right now with an upper-body injury. Smith was injured during a mid-third period collision on January 8th vs Grand Rapids. Smith did not leave the bench and even skated a shift afterwards, but has not played since. He could be good to go as early as this weekend.
*San Antonio has a lot of ex-Blackhawks/IceHogs flavor on their roster. Andrew Ebbett (33gp, 10g, 21a), who spent about a month on the Blackhawks’ roster last fall after being claimed off waivers from Anaheim, is San Antonio’s leading scorer now that Brett MacLean (40gp, 16g, 21a) has been recalled to Phoenix.
Tyler Mosienko, who is the grandson of the late and former Blackhawks great Bill Mosienko, was a late season pickup for Rockford two seasons ago and had 4 goals and 7 assists in 15 regular season games and another goal and assist in Rockford’s four playoff games in 2009. Mosienko is listed at 5-8 but may not be that tall. Mosienko has been a standout at the ECHL level after playing his entire Canadian junior career with the Kelowna Rockets. He’s split time again this year with the Las Vegas Wranglers (15gp, 5g, 11a) and the Rampage (20gp, 1g, 1a).
Center Bracken Kearns was one of the IceHogs better veterans last season. Kearns appeared in every regular season game and posted 15 goals and 51 points. Kearns has 7 goals and 22 points in 35 games so far with the Rampage.
Winger Pete MacArthur spent two years in Rockford (08-10), played in 135 regular season games, scored 22 goals while adding 45 assists. MacArthur has skated in 21 games with the Rampage this year, posting 3 goals and 1 assist. He’s signed an AHL contract on August 26th after entertaining options in Europe. MacArthur was a scratch on Monday.
We’ll have more Rockford notes up later on Tuesday.