Pirri lifts Power Play, Hogs to 4-2 win over Milwaukee

By Chris Block

A complete 60-minute effort was all the IceHogs needed to defeat second-place Milwaukee on Saturday night.

Rockford improved their season record to 11-14-1-2 on goals from Pete Leblanc, Brandon Bollig and two from the team’s leading scorer, Brandon Pirri.

Rockford’s power play entered Saturday night’s game having scored just 3 times in its past 40 chances.  Against the Milwaukee Admirals, the IceHogs power play scored 3 times on 5 chances Saturday.  Two of those goals came off the stick of Brandon Pirri, the other was set up by Pirri.

“I thought our power play really helped us out tonight,” head coach Ted Dent said after a week of working with that unit in practices.  “We finally figured that out.”

Pete Leblanc capitalized on an early power play opportunity when he snuck into the low slot and chipped a feed from Brandon Pirri past Milwaukee Admirals starter Jeremy Smith.  Ben Smith was in front of the net disturbing Smith’s vision as well on the play, putting the Hogs up 1-0 at 10:35 of the opening period.  The assist marked Pirri’s 50th professional helper (49 AHL, 1 NHL)

Two minutes later, after failing to convert on a second power play, Brett McLean was called for roughing, giving Milwaukee its first chance with the man advantage.  The Admirals wasted little time converting as defenseman Jonathan Blum whizzed a shot from the left point past Carter Hutton’s glove to tie the game at 1-1.  Admirals forward Ryan Thang was in front battling for position with Joe Lavin, and Hutton was late reacting to Blum’s shot.

The opening period was sloppy at times but Rockford carried the bulk of the play and held a 19-11 shot advantage after twenty minutes.  While Hutton probably would have liked to have the Blum tally back, he came up with two huge saves in the final three minutes of the opening frame to hold the score even heading into the first intermission.

Second period let downs have been an issue for the Hogs all season, especially at home.  But Saturday night was different.

“Our attention to detail was good,” Dent said.  “I thought it was probably one of the most complete games we’ve had this year.”

Brandon Pirri said the message on Saturday was simple, “We really wanted to focus on playing a full 60 and taking it shift by shift.”

Milwaukee continued to make costly mistakes as the second period got underway.

With Gabriel Bourque in the box for interference, Pirri, in his 100th game as a pro, potted his first goal of the night with a one-timer primed perfectly by Rostislav Olesz.  With the Hogs set up in Milwaukee’s zone, Brian Connelly dished the puck to Olesz in atop the left circle.  Olesz fed Pirri just out of the reach of defenseman Scott Ford before Pirri blasted the one-timer into an open near side of the Admirals’ goal.

Slashing was the theme of the night and practically every one on the ice was getting away with it since first-year AHL referee Darcy Burchell was overlooking many obvious ones.  Brandon Bollig had his twig slashed in half by Michael Latta and hurled one half of the splintered shaft across the ice in disgust, earning Bollig a two minute unsportsmanlike minor.  Luckily for Bollig, the Hogs’ penalty kill was able to shut Milwaukee down this time.

Shortly after Bollig stepped out of the box, he found a dance partner in Zack Stortini.  The two willing combatants fought for the second time in a week.

Hutton made a huge stop with 8:43 to go in the middle frame after a terrible Joe Lavin turnover to preserve his team’s 2-1 lead.

Bollig ended a personal 37-game goal scoring drought at 15:35 of the second period when he let a shot rip from the top of the left circle and clearly caught Jeremy Smith by surprise.  Bollig beat Smith cleanly to the short side.

“It’s just one of those shots, you kind of just want to throw it on net and it happened to go in,” Bollig said of his drought-busting tally.  “But I’ve been getting a lot of chances lately, and it’s just not falling my way.  And then finally it does.  It’s a good feeling.”

The goal deflated the Admirals and sent Rockford into the third period with a 3-1 lead but not before Carter Hutton had to stand tall after a turnover that left Taylor Beck in all alone in the Hogs end but he was stuffed by Hutton.

“After that first period, it was a good period,” said defenseman Dylan Olsen.  “Coming into the second, we knew we had to start burying some goals and bearing down on our chances.  And hopefully build up even more momentum going into the third.”

A Milwaukee goal was waved off with 42.4 seconds left in the second period when it was ruled the net popped off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.  Gabriel Bourque thought he had a goal but after the referee consulted with the goal judge, it was ruled no goal.

The two sides traded chances early on in the third period but it wasn’t until a Rostislav Olesz dump-in hit a glass stanchion in the right corner and bounced out to the front of the net did the IceHogs strike.  Brandon Pirri hustled to beat Jeremy Smith to the puck and with Smith out of position, Pirri gave Rockford a commanding 4-1 lead with 10:02 remaining in regulation.

“That one was a bit of a gift, a lucky break,” Pirri admitted.  “We worked pretty hard at practice on our power play and having new looks at the net.  It worked out for us.”

Jonathan Blum scored his second goal of the contest with 54.3 seconds left when he picked up a loose puck after Taylor Beck fanned on the original chance.  With Hutton down from anticipating Beck’s shot, Blum was able to make the final score 4-2.

Hutton stopped 28 shots to earn his third win in six starts since being recalled on December 3rd.  Hutton is 3-2-0-1 as an IceHog.

Pirri’s 12th and 13th goals lead all Hogs.  Pirri now ranks 7th in the AHL is scoring with 31 points.  Brian Connelly is 19th in the league in scoring (3g, 22a).

Rockford is now off until Wednesday when they host the Toronto Marlies for their lone visit of the season.

Saturday night’s lines, combos and scratches:

Forwards:

Andrew Shaw – Brandon Pirri – Brandon Segal

Rostislav Olesz – Peter Leblanc – Jimmy Hayes

Brett McLean – David Gilbert – Ben Smith

Philippe Paradis – Byron Froese – Brandon Bollig

Defense:

Ryan Stanton – Brian Connelly

Dylan Olsen – Brian Fahey

Joe Lavin – Shawn Lalonde

Scratches:  Ben Youds, Rob Flick, Jeremy Morin (suspension gm 2 of 3), Kyle Beach (right shoulder), Alexander Salak (left leg)

Power play I: Olesz-Pirri-Smith w/ Connelly and Leblanc
Power play II:  Segal-McLean-Hayes w/Lavin and Fahey (Lalonde as well)

–Jeremy Morin left the BMO following Saturday’s game with his sticks and equipment under his arm and in route to Chicago.  Morin will be recalled by the Blackhawks this morning, in time for tonight’s game at the United Center with the Calgary Flames.

–Ted Dent indicated no change in the status of goaltender Alexander Salak.

“He still has the lower body injury.  I can’t see him being back until at least after the holidays.”

–IceHogs play Sunday and then again on Wednesday to host the Toronto Marlies.  The players then get a four day Christmas break.  They’ll reconvene Monday the 26th for a morning skate before traveling to Milwaukee for a game that night against the Admirals.

–Byron Froese picked up an assist on the Bollig goal.  That’s Froese’s first AHL assist (17gp).

IceHogs consecutive games without a goal:  Ryan Stanton (38), Philippe Paradis (22), Brian Fahey (10), David Gilbert (7), Jimmy Hayes (6), Byron Froese (5), Brett McLean (5), Shawn Lalonde (4), Rostislav Olesz (3), Dylan Olsen (3), Ben Smith (3)

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com
PuckChatter@gmail.com
Twitter.com/ChrisBlock

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4 Responses to Pirri lifts Power Play, Hogs to 4-2 win over Milwaukee

  1. Pirri sure seems like the real deal offensively. Of the six players ahead of him in points, only one is less than 5 years older than Pirri.

    With the logjam at center and Bowman’s man-crush on Kruger, I wonder if the Hawks would ever consider seeing what Pirri could do on a wing.

    • They put him on the wing for some time in Rockford last season. Aside from being smaller in stature, physical just isn’t his game. He’s a center. He creates and snipes. I wouldn’t call it a logjam at center. The Hawks are not in a rush, but are in the market for a more model 3/fourth line center. Pirri is not that. If there’s an injury 1 through 3 though, Pirri will at least get the reward look-see.

      • I meant logjam in the sense that Toews is #1 and Pirri isn’t a #4. Add in Bolland and you have one center position available and Kruger does some nice things that I’m sure Bowman admires.

        Is Pirri really that small anymore? He didn’t seem it when I watched him in the preseason and supposedly has added about 20 pounds since the end of his time at RPI. When he was drafted he was more like Nugent-Hopkins, but now he seems to be built more like Dave Bolland.

        • I haven’t stood next to Bolland lately so I couldn’t compare the two. But that may be a good one size wise. I seem to recall Pirri listed at 165 when drafted, and he’s listed 180 now. He’s still pretty slight though. Regardless, he doesn’t play big and isn’t anywhere near as fiesty as Bolland. Since he was drafted by Tallon, he’s been projected for that second-line center position long term. And still is. That could be his spot next season, or he could be trade bait if Kruger solidifies that spot because another two years down the line the Hawks have another wave of center prospects who should be ready. The skill is there and developing. They’d just like him to hone his defensive game, fill out a bit more and improve his first step quickness. He’s definitely seen as a top prospect though and I’m sure other teams will ask for him whenever Stan Bowman begins serious trade discussions.

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