A bad non-call in favor of the Chicago Wolves and an anemic Rockford IceHogs’ power play told the story Saturday night in a 4-1 Wolves’ victory at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The crowd of 4,279, on hand for the IceHogs’ second home tilt of the season, witnessed Billy Sweatt clearly redirecting Chicago’s second goal in with his skate and past Alexander Salak early in the middle frame to give the visitor’s a 2-0 lead. However, veteran AHL referee Terry Koharski did not see it that way and allowed the goal to stand. The IceHogs blew a lot of smoke, but never truly recovered.
While they were on their heels most of the night, the Wolves withstood a barrage of IceHogs’ shots. Goaltender Matt Climie made 47 saves in all. One night after his teammate Eddie Lack stopped all 35 Rockford shots in a 2-0 Wolves victory down the road in Rosemont, Illinois.
The shot board tells a story of one-sided dominance for Rockford on Saturday night, but the truth is the IceHogs were not at their best in this game.
And every time the Wolves got their offensive wheels moving, they were striking or creating enough to make the IceHogs scramble.
On the other hand, Rockford struggled with their passing and far too many of their scoring attempts were of the one-and-done variety, low-percentage shots and not enough second-chance opportunities.
Wolves’ defenseman Yann Sauve got Chicago on the board 5:50 into the contest when his point shot whizzed by traffic in front of a screened Alexander Salak to give the Wolves the early 1-0 advantage. The puck appeared to be redirected off Brian Fahey on its way in.
The score stayed that way until the Sweatt kick-in at 6:16 of the second period. Wolves’ winger Mike Duco threw a puck toward the net that Sweatt turned his skate blade into the puck as he cruised through the crease area. Salak had no chance to react as the puck slipped by his left pad. Officially the goal is Sweatt’s first of the season.
IceHogs players both on the ice and the bench were immediately and vehemently appealing to Koharski after the goal. The situation was only made worse when a replay was shown to the crowd twice afterwards prompting IceHogs’ coach Ted Dent to demand an explanation.
After the game Dent didn’t pin the loss on that play.
“[Koharski] made his call. He couldn’t change it,” Dent said after the game. “But, he gave us some power plays right after that. It all works out in the end usually. You have to capitalize when you get 3-4 power plays right after that.”
The official number was – five – consecutive power plays for Rockford after the controversial Sweatt tally. Rockford couldn’t convert on any of those chances, which included a 41 second 5 on 3 to start the third period. The IceHogs’ power play not only failed to convert on that particular opportunity, but they didn’t manage a single shot on goal in the entire two minutes of power play time to open the third period.
“I’m not happy with our power play,” Dent explained. “Obviously, eight power plays and we got one goal and it was from a guy who’s never played on it before (Philippe Paradis). We were searching for someone that wanted to take the bull by the horn there. We just have to get some ugly goals. We have to get to the net and we talked about that before the game. And Philippe got one there, but too little too late.”
At 7:33 of the third period, Wolves’ defenseman effectively sealed the game when his right-point blast cleanly beat Salak to give Chicago a commanding 3-0 lead.
18 seconds later, Shawn Lalonde took out his frustration in taking a slashing minor. Rockford killed off that man-disadvantage and got their eighth and final power play of their own moments later when veteran blue liner Nolan Baumgartner was signaled to the box for hooking.
At this point, Dent shook up his power play, sending third and fourth liner energy guys out as a new-look unit.
Andrew Shaw, Philippe Paradis and Byron Froese started on that chance. Shaw and Froese had switched with Jeremy Morin and Chris DiDomenico by the time a Brian Fahey point shot hit Matt Climie’s pad, creating a rebound. Paradis, on the doorstep, dove at the rebound and slapped it home to finally put the IceHogs on the board, on their 42nd shot of the contest.
12 seconds later DiDomenico was cited for a holding the stick infraction, killing any momentum the Paradis goal created.
Down two goals with 2 and a half minutes to go, Dent pulled Salak for the extra attacker. Demonstrating Rockford’s fate on this night, seconds later the Wolves quickly moved the puck out of their end and up to Mike Duco who deposited the puck into the vacated Rockford net to make the score 4-1.
Salak stopped 13 of the 16 shots he faced in the loss. You can’t really blame him on the first goal that appeared to bounce off Fahey and change direction. He didn’t have a chance on the Sweatt goal that shouldn’t have counted anyhow. He was moving right to left on the Friesen tally in the third, but that was one he probably should have stopped, and may have on a night he’d been more busy.
Anxious moment late in the first period when Jeremy Morin, in just his fourth game back from the January 15th concussion that sidelined his young career for nearly ten months, dropped the gloves with Wolves’ forward Antoine Roussel. The two were battling aggressively in front of Matt Climie and it quickly evolved into fisticuffs. It was something Morin probably couldn’t have avoided. He took 4-5 short punches as the two combatants held each other in a clinch over the duration.
Rockford is now 3-3-0-0 on the young season. The Wolves picked up their second win of the season (2-2-0-2), obviously with both coming at the expense of Rockford this weekend.
IceHogs are back in action Tuesday night, when the Texas Stars visit the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Ted Dent’s lines and pairings on Saturday night…..
Kyle Beach – Brandon Pirri – Ben Smith
Pete Leblanc – Brett McLean – Brandon Segal
Rob Klinkhammer – Chris DiDomenico – Jeremy Morin
Philippe Paradis – Byron Froese – Andrew Shaw
Brian Connelly – Brian Fahey
Ryan Stanton – Shawn Lalonde
Joe Lavin – Dylan Olsen
Scratches: D-Ben Youds, W-Brandon Bollig, RW-Jimmy Hayes…. All healthy
Ryan Stanton left the game with 5:35 to go in the second period. He did return to the bench for the third and played the remainder. Dylan Olsen was hurt a few minutes later after chasing a dump in deep behind Chicago’s goal line. Olsen was tossed down to the ice hard, landing on his back. Olsen was shaken up on the play and did not return.
The official word on Olsen is “upper body.”
–Brian Connelly and Kyle Beach led the way with 6 shots each. Beach had a nice burst of speed on a coast-to-coast rush up the left side with 3:45 to go in regulation. His short-side attempt was stopped easily by Climie.
–Connelly was a team-worst minus-4.
–Andrew Shaw is not only a little buzzsaw on the ice, he was one of Rockford’s better overall performers on Saturday.
Dent on Shaw’s game: “He’s an agitator. He competes. He’s only 175 pounds, but he plays like he’s 200 pounds. You just love a guy like that on your team.”
Shaw drew the ire of Wolves players multiple times Saturday, especially from Mark Mancari, and after big hits on Kevin Connauton and Tim Miller in the third period.
Shaw also dropped the gloves with Matt Clackson, who nearly got into it with Kyle Beach, lined up before the game’s opening face off.
–Outside of Shaw, Rockford’s best players on this night were Brett McLean (who got going in the second period) and to a lesser extent Beach and Shawn Lalonde.
Brandon Segal, Ben Smith and Rob Klinkhammer all had very quiet nights.
It was clear very early on Chicago’s game plan was to get bodies in front of Alexander Salak and Rockford had no answer for that early.
–Rockford scored 1 goal on 83 shots versus the Wolves this weekend.
–Saturday the IceHogs out shot Chicago 48-17. That 48 shot total matches a AHL franchise record.
–Matt Climie (1), Dustin Friesen (2) and Mike Duco (3) were the game’s 3 stars.
–Wolves and ‘Hogs next face off in Rockford on Friday December 9.