By Chris Block
A combination of Rockford’s offense gaining new life and Carter Hutton’s 32 saves ended the IceHogs’ four-game losing streak and lifted the baby-Hawks to a 6-3 win over rival Chicago Wolves.
“It was huge,” alternate captain Brett McLean said of the swoon-snapping victory. “We felt lately that maybe we had not gotten the results that we’ve deserved.”
After scoring just five goals total in their previous four games, the IceHogs’ offense exploded for a four-goal first period and six goals in all before a crowd of 4,272 at BMO Harris Bank Center.
“It was a good, hard-paced fast game,” said IceHogs’ head coach Ted Dent. “I thought we played as close to a 60-minute game as we could. There were a couple breakdowns in the second period, but other than that, I thought we played a solid game.”
Carter Hutton made his third-consecutive start since being recalled from Toledo last weekend after the Alexander Salak injury.
“I thought he was good, especially on the power play in the third (period),” Dent said of Hutton’s performance after his team defeated the Wolves for the first time this season in three matchups. “I thought he was solid. He gave us a real good chance to win tonight.”
While Hutton was solid, the offense certainly dealt him a favorable hand scoring four goals in a span of 7:34 during the middle of the opening period.
“We just seemed to put it all together finally,” said McLean. “It’s nice when you score goals in bunches like we did tonight.”
Chicago did strike first though on a delayed penalty call. Rockford’s Brandon Segal was being called for an offensive zone penalty when the Wolves took possession and sped through the neutral zone. With defenseman Sebastien Erixon leading the rush, winger Anton Rodin took an Erixon drop pass and picked top shelf right corner over Carter Hutton’s glove to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead at the 4:21 mark.
Rockford answered that early tally forty-seven seconds later. Philippe Paradis beat a Wolves’ defender to a dump in and Rob Flick was the second Hog in to wrestle the puck to Byron Froese to the right of Wolves netminder Matt Climie. Froese confidently gained the loose puck and took two steps around Climie before beating the Wolves’ number one netminder. The goal was the first of Froese’s AHL career.
Andrew Shaw ended a personal four-game pointless streak when he tipped a Brian Fahey blast from the left point at 9:43 of the period.
Eleven and half minutes into the opening frame, Dylan Olsen coughed up a puck deep in the Rockford zone but Carter Hutton made a strong save to keep the score 2-1.
On the ensuing shift, down in the Wolves’ end, Peter Leblanc released a snap shot from the top of the right circle. The shot appeared to redirect off a Wolves defender and fool Matt Climie. Nonetheless, the puck got past Climie and Rockford had a 3-1 lead.
In response to his team’s lackluster start, Craig MacTavish pulled Climie after the third goal against the 11 shots he had faced. The last time the Wolves visited the BMO, Climie stopped 47 shots in a 4-1 Chicago victory. Seven weeks later at the BMO, he was pulled after twelve minutes.
“Their goalie (Climie) probably would like to have a couple of those back early and that’s why they changed goaltenders,” Dent said. “We can’t explain our droughts, just like its hard to explain when we score a lot of goals as well.”
34 seconds after Leblanc’s tally, Andrew Shaw potted his 2nd goal of the night, beating Eddie Lack in the first sequence he faced. Lack made the stop on another Brian Fahey shot, but couldn’t find the rebound before Shaw poked it home.
“[Lack] thought he had it,” Shaw said of his 6th professional goal. “[The puck] just fell behind [Lack] and sat there. Thank god the ref saw it because I knew where it was. I just went in and pushed the puck into the net.”
Rockford held a 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission. The Hogs largely dominated the initial fifteen minutes of the game but the Wolves were coming on. Holding true to form in this rivalry, the Wolves would mount a comeback.
Chicago nearly struck two minutes into the second period when Stefan Schneider ripped one by Hutton’s glove hand, but clanked his shot off the post.
Midway through the frame, with Jimmy Hayes in the box for delay of game, the Wolves got within two.
Mark Mancari unleashed a bomb from the top of the point, soaring over Hutton’s glove to tighten Rockford’s lead to 4-2. The goal was Mancari’s 8th of the season, three of which were scored last Saturday night in Grand Rapids.
Mancari would strike again a minute and 27 seconds later to trim the IceHogs lead to one goal. Darren Haydar set up Mancari beautifully with a cross-ice pass into the left circle for a one-timer that Hutton didn’t have a chance on. With the assist, Haydar, 32, posted his 699th career AHL point.
Brett McLean stifled Chicago’s rally two minutes and fifty seconds later, when he captured a loose puck to the left of Eddie Lack’s cage. McLean wheeled around the Wolves net, faked an initial shot and beat Lack low along the ice.
“It just kind of found a whole,” McLean explained of his 7th goal on the season. “It wasn’t like I was really aiming for that. It was more luck than anything.”
Brandon Pirri struck left pipe with 1:48 to go in the middle period but there was no one around to secure the rebound and the ‘Hogs went into the second intermission up 5-3.
Rockford’s penalty kill was tested in third frame and was up to the task. Peter Leblanc and Joe Lavin each put the Hogs down a man, giving the Wolves life.
With Leblanc in the box, Carter Hutton made his biggest stop of the night on center Jordan Schroeder. Schroeder was alone on the weak side when he fired a puck near the left face off dot but Hutton recovered quickly side-to-side and defended Schroeder’s threat with the blocker to keep the game 5-3.
Rostislav Olesz then all but sealed the Hogs’ victory at 13:10 of the period. Olesz scored after Lack stopped Joe Lavin’s point shot but the rebound kicked out to Olesz, who hammered the Hogs’ six goal home.
“It was good for all four lines to score,” said Olesz, who ended a personal five-game goal drought with his 4th of the season. “It doesn’t matter who scores the goals, but that we win the game.”
With the game seemingly out of reach, things then got a little ugly.
Just prior to the Olesz goal, Wolves’ defenseman, and top Canucks’ prospect, Kevin Connauton tried to goad Dylan Olsen into a fight behind the play. Olsen, understanding his team was still only up two goals at the time, and being one of his team’s better defenders, didn’t take the bait.
Tim Miller attacked Olesz as the Hogs’ forward tried to come off during a change. Miller wound up getting two minutes for slashing and another minor for cross-checking out of that exchange. Shawn Lalonde swooped in to Olesz’s defense and tried to get after both Miller and Michael Davis. With the penalties coming at 17:14 of the third, Rockford wound up with a power play for pretty much the remainder of the contest.
Just after the final horn, Dylan Olsen gave Kevin Connauton what he asked for seven and half minutes earlier. Olsen dropped his gloves for the first time in his pro career, got in a few solid rights and earned the decision win. Connauton and Olsen both got 5 minute majors and 10-minute misconducts for the altercation. The Wolves’ Antoine Roussel and Brandon Bollig each received misconducts as well.
As the IceHogs’ gathered at center ice for the customary stick-raising victory salute, Wolves’ coach Craig MacTavish had to push winger Michael Duco away from Bollig as the two were having words. The Wolves were slow to leave the ice after the game as both sides were more eager to exchange words post-game.
The win improves Rockford’s record to 9-13-1-0 and they now trail 4th-place Chicago (9-9-1-3) by three points. The Wolves do have one game in hand. Both teams play three games this weekend.
Rockford will host Grand Rapids on Saturday night, then travel to Milwaukee on Sunday for their first of twelve meetings this season with the Admirals.
Grand Rapids lost in Milwaukee on Friday night, 4-3 in a shootout.
–IceHogs’ lines, combos and scratches on Friday vs Chicago
Philippe Paradis – Brett McLean – Brandon Segal
Jeremy Morin – Brandon Pirri – Andrew Shaw
Rostislav Olesz – Peter Leblanc – Jimmy Hayes
Rob Flick – Byron Froese – Brandon Bollig
Brian Connelly – Dylan Olsen
Ryan Stanton – Brian Fahey
Joe Lavin – Shawn Lalonde
Scratches: Kyle Beach (right shoulder)… Alexander Salak (left leg sprain)… Ben Youds and David Gilbert
Power play 1: Morin-McLean-Segal w/Connelly and Leblanc
Power play 2: Olesz-Pirri-Hayes w/Lalonde and Lavin
–Outside of Froese moving into the lineup after his recall from Toledo, the only other major change to the lineup was Dent’s decision to move Rostislav Olesz down from Pirri’s line to the third with Leblanc and Hayes. That moved Morin up to the Pirri’s wing. Froese moving into the center spot on the fourth line moved Flick over to the wing. Flick had skated at center last Saturday and Sunday after getting his recall (along with Carter Hutton) from Toledo.
–Paradis, Morin and Brian Fahey each had 2 assists in the contest. It marked the first multi-point game of Paradis’ young career. Paradis’ lone goal this season also came against Chicago, in the 4-1 loss back on October 22.
–“Yeah. I didn’t mind it,” Dent responded after the game when asked about Olesz’s performance. “Like everybody, our whole team, puck management is the term we use as coaches. We just have to be better at times. Knowing when to get the puck deep and trying to limit turnovers through the neutral zone.”
–Rockford improves its record vs Wolves to 1-2-0-0 on the season. The two squads next face-off on Thursday Dec 29th at Allstate Arena in the 4th of 12 season meetings. All other eight meetings will take place by the end of February.
–David Gilbert sat out his second straight game as a healthy scratch.
–After the game, Ted Dent said he was undecided who he’d start in net, Hutton or Richards, on Saturday night when Grand Rapids visits the BMO.
–Scouts aboard for Friday’s game from Minnesota, Edmonton, Columbus, Tampa Bay and the Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg scouts have had their eyes on Rockford of late. Vancouver also had two of their pro scouts there scouting the game and probably more so their own prospects on the Wolves. Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite was there as well.
–Rockford was 0 for 4 on the power play. Chicago potted 1 in 5 chances.
–Matt Climie, who was spectacular in a Chicago win back on October 22 at the BMO, eluded taking the loss in this one after seeing his team score the two in the second period to pull him off the hook.
Eddie Lack took the ‘L’ instead, stopping 24 of 27 IceHogs’ shots.
–3 stars of the game were 3-Mark Mancari, 2-Brian Fahey, 1-Andrew Shaw
–After the game, cover band Cylinder 6, which provided live intermission music during the night, performed a few more songs, but not before improving a uncomfortably long “Wolves you suck… you suck so much… you suck really bad” song. It was a really low-class move that made the IceHogs look much the same. The Wolves staff at the game appeared to be understandably unhappy about it.