By Chris Block
The long-awaited return of Jeremy Morin took place in southern British Columbia on Friday night where the IceHogs travelled to take on the Abbotsford Heat.
In just his second shift since January 15th, Morin got a puck entering the Abbotsford zone from Chris DiDomenico. Given time and space through the middle, Morin wasted no time cutting down the slot and deked Abbotsford goalie Leland Irving down and slipped the puck through to give Rockford a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game. Morin gave a the big fist pump salute to himself in celebration.
Morin looked very good considering he’s largely been inactive for the past nine months. It was a good sign on the goal that Morin did not hesitate to take open space through the middle of the ice when it was given to him. After all, it was a similar situation against the Chicago Wolves back on January 15 that Morin was hip-checked and came down landing head first on the top of his helmet, sidelining the 19-year old for the remainder of the 2010-11 season and still feeling the effects of that unfortunate collision during training camp in September.
Rockford lost the game 4-3, after leading throughout the first 41 minutes of the contest.
Morin started the game on a line with Brandon Bollig and center Chris DiDomenico. It can basically be considered the IceHogs’ fourth line at the moment. By the end of the first period, Morin was bumped up to the top line with Brett McLean and Brandon Segal, taking Rob Klinkhammer’s spot. Morin returned to DiDomenico’s line during the second period but eventually Ted Dent had Morin back up on the top line.
Dent also used Morin on the penalty kill, which was surprising considering it was his first game back. Morin and DiDomenico showed glimpses of chemistry together. Having a player with the skill of Morin undoubtedly gave DiDomenico a boost on Friday.
There was a tense moment late in the first when an Abbotsford player took a run at Morin at center ice near the player benches. Morin saw it coming and dodged the check attempt. Throughout the game Morin would get his elbows up on anyone who tried to put a body on him, but he never connected hard or flush and was not cited for a penalty in his return.
In Friday night’s loss, the IceHogs managed to surrender two – 2-goal leads and gave up a goal in the final minute of the first period, just 15 seconds after Brandon Pirri scored to make the game 3-1.
The two sides were held scoreless in the second period.
But in the third, Abbotsford turned up the heat with two quick tallies, 44 seconds apart to tie the game and then take the lead they would hold over the final 18 minutes and 15 seconds of regulation.
Kyle Beach scored his third goal of the season nine minutes into the game to give the Hogs a 2-0 advantage. Beach now has goals in each of Rockford’s three games.
Brandon Pirri posted a two-point evening, assisting on Beach’s rocket from the top of the slot, and launching one of his own to beat Leland Irving late in the opening frame to give the Hogs a 3-1 lead before giving up a goal with 21 seconds left in the first period.
Rockford is now 2-1-0-0 on the young season.
Ben Youds, Rob Flick and Alexander Salak were the scratches. Salak is not on the trip, staying home to be with his wife who is about to give birth. Carter Hutton was recalled from the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) to back up Alec Richards this weekend.
David Toews was loaned by the IceHogs (Toews does not have a deal with the Blackhawks) to Toledo on Thursday when the team recalled Hutton.
Richards stopped 25 of 29 Heat shots, as well as a Lance Bouma penalty shot awarded when Bouma stepped out of the penalty box and had to be chased down by Ryan Stanton.
How Bouma was in the box to begin with is another story. Bouma was given an interference penalty, apparently (and I’m not making this up) because he tried to hard to negate an icing call chasing against Ryan Stanton. Stanton took a direct line to the puck while Bouma came from the side behind the Hogs’ goal. At the last second, as Stanton touched the puck along the boards, Bouma jumped over Stanton’s stick to avoid tripping over it. This looked odd but it was a harmless maneuver on Bouma’s part. Still, Shawn Lalonde skated over in defense of Stanton apparently and referee Andy Thiessen gave Bouma a two minute minor for interference. Who, when and where Bouma interfered with anyone is a poignant question.
Glenview native, Brian Fahey had a bad night; bad positioning on the first Heat goal and turning the puck over on multiple occasions. Rockford’s lines, with the exception of moving Morin and Klinkhammer around, looked like this…
Rob Klinkhammer – Brett McLean – Brandon Segal
Pete Leblanc – Brandon Pirri – Jimmy Hayes
Kyle Beach – Byron Froese – Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig – Chris DiDomenico – Jeremy Morin
Brian Connelly – Brian Fahey
Joe Lavin – Shawn Lalonde
Ryan Stanton – Dylan Olsen
The two teams rematch on Sunday at 3pm Chicago time. The reason for the day off between games is because Abbotsford’s home attendance was poor last season on Saturday night’s countering CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. After Sunday’s game, the IceHogs won’t return home until Monday.