By Jon Fromi
The Rockford IceHogs were looking to get a win streak started against the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Thanks to a big game by Carter Hutton in net, Rockford goes up to Milwaukee with a chance for a weekend trifecta.
Hutton stopped 41 of 43 shots fired his way in 65 minutes, then turned away the Griffins when it counted in the shootout as the IceHogs outlasted Grand Rapids 3-2 for their second straight victory.
As was the case Friday in the win over Chicago, the Hogs would go down 1-0 in the first period. With Brandon Bollig in the box for interference, Gustav Nyquist was the recipient of a nice rebound off a shot from Brendan Smith. Nyquist knocked the puck past Hutton as Grand Rapids converted on their second power play of the night.
There would be no explosion of goals to follow. The IceHogs were outshot 14-5 in the first 20 minutes and failed to convert on any of their five power play attempts on the night.
Rockford had to work hard to tie the contest, which would happen in the fifth minute of the middle stanza. Peter LeBlanc hit Jimmy Hayes coming into the Grand Rapids zone, and the big forward got a shot on Jordan Pearce. Pearce fended off the attempt, but Rostislav Olesz was right there for the put back that evened the score at a goal apiece.
With the sands running out in the period, Shawn Lalonde got the puck at the blue line off of a Rockford faceoff win and popped Pearce’s water bottle with a slap shot. Rockford went into the second intermission with a 2-1 advantage.
That’s the way it stayed through most of the third period. Both Pearce and Hutton kept the game as it was despite several scoring chances on both sides. The IceHogs defense fought the good fight until Griffins coach Curt Fraser pulled Pearce with just over a minute to play in regulation.
With a man advantage, Francis Pare got a shot on goal. Hutton couldn’t control the rebound and Joakim Andersson tied the game with just 47 ticks left.
Rockford’s resolve was tested in overtime after a tussle in the Griffins crease resulted in roughing penalties for Ryan Stanton and Grand Rapids defenseman Logan Pyett and goalie interference on Brett McLean. The IceHogs had to fight off a 4-on-3 for the last 1:46 of extra time to bring the outcome to the mercy of the shootout.
After Olesz was wide on his backhand attempt, Smith scored for the Griffins. Brandon Pirri and Nyquist traded goals in the second round. Jeremy Morin found the mark in round three. McLean and Brian Connelly were stopped by Pearce, but Hutton stopped Pare, Jamie Johnson, and Tomas Tatar in the last three rounds, necessitating sudden death.
Captain Brandon Segal beat Pearce’s glove in his attempt, and Hutton turned away Landon Ferraro to pick up the extra point in the name of Rockford.
Thoughts from the BMO
-Hutton was first star of the game and rightfully so. It was fitting that he had the game in front of him in the shootout. Pearce and Lalonde were second and third stars, respectively.
–Alec Richards sat once again while Hutton, who has an AHL contract with Rockford and is not property of the Blackhawks, has taken over primary goalie responsibilities just a week after arriving from Toledo in the wake of Alexander Salak’s leg injury. Hutton has played well and has the confidence of coach Ted Dent. It’s apparent that Richards does not at this stage of the season. Will Hutton get all three starts this weekend?
-So far on the weekend, the IceHogs power play is fruitless in nine attempts. Over the last two weekends, that unit is mired in a one for 28 slump. That lone goal came last Sunday in Peoria.
-3,704 fans were in the BMO Harris Bank Center to see Rockford beat the Griffins for the third time in three meetings.
-Despite several spirited shoving displays in front of both goals, no fisticuffs broke out. Bollig and Greg Arnadio seemed to be heading for a bout, but never got the chance to dance in a tight game.
-Rockford has won two straight on two previous occasions this season. If they have any designs of breaking out of the basement of the Midwest Division, the IceHogs need to reel off a win streak. Hopefully the third shot at a three-game roll will be the charm against an Admirals team that dropped a 4-2 decision in Chicago Saturday.