Jeremy Morin lit the lamp for his 7th and 8th goals of the season, but a series of IceHogs penalties swung the momentum Wednesday afternoon. From there, the Chicago Wolves got two third period goals from Mark Mancari to defeat Rockford 4-2.
A mostly school kids field trip day crowd of 6,113 in Rosemont, Illinois witnessed their Wolves down the IceHogs for the fourth time in five meetings this season.
“Our penalty killing did a good job,” head coach Ted Dent said in the wake of the IceHogs’ 20th regulation loss (13-20-1-3). “I thought some of the (penalty) calls were below average, but what can you do?”
Rockford’s power play had a huge opportunity to get on the board three minutes into the game. With a Wolves player already in the box, Chicago captain Nolan Baumgartner hooked Jeremy Morin down deep in the Wolves’ zone to give Rockford a 5-on-3 advantage for a minute and forty-five seconds. A new look IceHogs power play unit settled for shots from a distance and that chance went for naught.
The Wolves would get their first of seven power plays on this day 8:29 into the opening frame when Chris DiDomenico tripped up Jordan Schroeder at Rockford’s blue line.
Chicago made their opportunity count. Ryan Stanton missed a check near the half wall in his zone as the Wolves were attacking. Michael Davis settled the puck and drifted into the slot unchallenged where he wristed a shot off Alec Richards’ right leg pad and in to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.
A minute and eighteen seconds later, Rockford drew even after Brandon Pirri recovered a Wolves turnover inside the Rockford zone. Pirri sped up the right side of the ice with Jeremy Morin hustling down the middle. Pirri strung a beautiful feed to Morin through Wolves’ defenseman Chris Tanev and Morin beat Wolves’ goaltender Matt Climie to tie the game 1-1.
The Wolves regained the lead three minutes later when Rockford couldn’t manage a bouncing puck out of Alec Richards’ reach. Wolves winger Victor Oreskovich did, beating Brian Connelly to it before whacking the lost rubber biscuit past a fallen Hogs netminder.
Rockford carried the majority of play in the first period but in the end they were down a goal.
Morin struck again to tie the game 2-2 seven minutes into the middle period. Matt Climie gave a big rebound off Chris DiDomenico’s shot. Morin was there all alone to the left of Climie for the second chance opportunity and deposited the rebound into the vacated side of Climie’s net.
The two Morin tallies gave him three in as many games after he had just one in an 18-game stretch for Rockford.
“Obviously I’ve been struggling to find the net a bit this season,” Morin said. “Obviously it’s good to put some home. Hopefully I can build off that and move forward.”
From this point the IceHogs were whistled for five penalties to Chicago’s one.
The score stayed tied 2-2 until 9:37 of the third when Mark Mancari picked off a weak Brett McLean ring-around attempt behind the Hogs’ goal line. Mancari then quickly executed a successful wrap-around on a surprised Richards. The play began at the left faceoff circle in the Hogs’ zone. Steven Reinprecht won the draw forward into the corner where McLean took possession. McLean tried to send the puck around the back wall to the far side but shot it right at Mancari, who was pursuing from behind the Hogs’ net. An assist was still given to Reinprecht on the goal.
Mancari scored again just 57 seconds later to give the Wolves a 4-2 lead. Rockford failed to gain possession or clear a puck several times in a wild sequence in their own zone that saw the teams chasing the puck all around the Hogs end. That was until Mancari got a rebound chance that Richards got a piece of, but not enough. Richards slammed his blocker to the ice in disgust after the watching the puck hit the back of his goal.
“They had a good chance and got a rebound,” Richards explained after taking the 9th loss in his last 10 decisions.
“I got a piece of it with my glove and it somehow rolled in. I thought I may have made a big save for the guys and was just a little frustrated that it squeaked in there.”
In the final moments and Richards out for the extra attacker, Ben Youds made a nice play on Tim Miller to prevent an empty-net goal with 50 seconds to go though the game eventually ended 4-2.
Near the mid-point of the second period, before the stream of penalties, Rockford owned a shot advantage of 20-9. From that point, the Hogs were outshot by Chicago 18-8.
“It was definitely a tough loss,” Jeremy Morin said following the game. “It was a 2-2 game and we kind of collapsed there for 5 or 6 minutes. It cost us the game.”
Five of the seven penalties leading to Wolves’ power plays were committed by IceHogs veterans – two each by Brian Connelly and Brian Fahey and another by Brandon Segal.
On the season, Alec Richards is 6-11-0-2 with an 89.2% save percentage and an average of 3.64 goals against. He’s posted a 91.0% save percentage in his past six starts but is just 1-4-0-1 in those games.
Rockford is now 2-2 in January but just 2-5-0-1 since the Christmas break.
The IceHogs coach is still encouraged by his team’s recent efforts.
“Well, we’re playing good hockey. We have been for the last two weeks,” Dent explained. “Even in the losses we got after Christmas, we were in every game but the Milwaukee game (Dec 26).
“We’re close to getting over that hump, but we’re just not there.”
After Wednesday’s game the team boarded a flight bound for Oklahoma City where they’ll face the Barons on Friday night. From there the IceHogs will bus down to San Antonio, TX to play the Rampage on Saturday night.
Rockford returns home to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Day, at 1:05pm to host the Texas Stars.
–Ted Dent’s lines, combos and scratches Wednesday vs Wolves
Jeremy Morin – Brandon Pirri – Chris DiDomenico
Brandon Segal – David Gilbert – Byron Froese
Brett McLean – Pete Leblanc – Philippe Paradis
Brandon Svendsen – Rob Flick – Brandon Bollig
Ryan Stanton – Brian Connelly
Joe Lavin – Brian Fahey
Dylan Olsen – Ben Youds
Kyle Beach (shoulder)… Alexander Salak (ankle)… Shawn Lalonde (upper body)… Rostislav Olesz (upper body) were all out…. No healthy scratches for Rockford. [More news on the IceHogs’ injured further below]
Power play I: Morin-Pirri-Leblanc w/Connelly and Froese
Power play II: McLean-DiDomenico-Segal.. w/ Olsen and Youds
Penalty kill forwards: Paradis-Leblanc, Segal-Bollig, Gilbert-Froese
Penalty kill defense: Olsen-Youds, Stanton-Fahey (Lavin too & w/Olsen in box)
—Dylan Olsen was placed on the power play for the second straight game. That’s a spot Olsen hasn’t found himself in at all this season. He looked good there skating with the second unit.
Ted Dent explained the move, “He’s got a heavy shot. He played in the NHL last week, so he has the confidence.”
–Brandon Pirri assisted on both Morin tallies. After Wednesday’s action, Pirri sits 10th in AHL scoring with 15 goals, 21 assists (36 points) in 35 games played. Currently, Pirri is the IceHogs lone All-Star Game representative. [More on Pirri below]
–Hogs are now 2-2-0-2 when tied after two periods
–As noted, Rockford is now 1-4 vs. Chicago this season. The two teams will face off in a home-and-home on Friday January 20 (in Rockford) and Saturday January 21 (at Allstate Arena). The entire 12-game season series will wrap up on February 26th. So, the IceHogs need to figure out these Wolves pretty quick.
—Brandon Bollig dropped the gloves with Matt Clackson seven minutes into the game. Here, each guy got in some shots. It ended when Clackson got the takedown. Clackson fought Andrew Shaw earlier in the season in these two teams second meeting back on Oct 22.
Injury news and updates
–The target for Kyle Beach (right shoulder) is now late-March, but that is hardly a lock at this point. Late-March isn’t much different than what’s been reported here before now. A return then would put his recovery at 5 months. Beach is working hard and has been telling people he’ll play again before the end of this season. As of now, it looks like the IceHogs’ season will end on April 14th. So, if Beach can’t hit the late-March target, and that’s something the team would probably determine in early March, its possible he’ll get shut down until 2012-13. Beach is currently in the second year of his three-year entry level deal. Last year was Beach’s rookie season. In 85 AHL regular season games, Beach has 19 goals and 42 points to go along with 196 penalty minutes. He also has 3 goals in 5 playoff contests. Beach turns 22 on Friday.
–Goaltender Alexander Salak’s return is coming soon.
Salak suffered a “lower-body” injury in the opening seconds of the second period in a December 2nd game vs Lake Erie. The injury is a sprain to the left ankle.
On Wednesday, Ted Dent indicated Salak’s return will be sooner than later.
“He’s close,” Dent said. “He’s skating. He’s not coming on the trip, so maybe when we get back he’ll be close.”
—Rostislav Olesz has missed the past two games with an “upper-body” injury. He had also missed games on Dec 30 and 31st with an “upper-body” ailment. No word if the two are related. The word is this injury is a shoulder issue. Whereas, the previous injury, suffered in Rosemont on Dec 29, was a back problem. Dent categorized Olesz as “day-to-day” but did not know when he’d return. Olesz did not make the trip to OKC on Wednesday, so that puts him out of Friday and Saturday’s contests for sure. In 19 games with the ‘Hogs, Olesz has 7 goals and 10 helpers (+4).
—Shawn Lalonde has been out since suffering an “upper-body” injury in a 5-3 Dec 29th loss to the Chicago Wolves. Lalonde was run hard into the end wall behind the IceHogs net early in the third period of that contest by Victor Oreskovich. However, Lalonde did continue and skated another five shifts after taking that hit. He has missed all six IceHogs games since.
Dent also termed Lalonde as “day-to-day” but said Lalonde could return as early as this weekend. Monday is probably more likely.
Achy Walleye and the PTOs
Winger Brandon Svendsen, 26, was signed to a Professional Try-Out (PTO) contract on Tuesday. This, because Ben Smith was recalled to Chicago and Rostislav Olesz remains out with an upper-body injury suffered last Friday night in Houston.
Svendsen was signed because neither Paul Zanette nor David Toews (the only two Rockford/Blackhawk properties currently in Toledo) could be recalled at this time.
Svendsen played five games with the Binghamton Senators in December, 61 games (7g, 9a) with Bridgeport last season and 71 gms (7g, 13a) with Binghamton in 2009-10 – all AHL stints. He was in Rockford’s training camp back in September but was cut and wound up in Kalamazoo (ECHL). He still leads Kalamazoo in scoring (13g+22a=35pts in 28gp), which is good for 11th overall in the ECHL.
David Toews has been banged up recently and Zanette just returned last weekend from a hand injury and had played in just three games after missing two months. Toews played in all three of those Toledo games this past weekend, but was injured on Sunday, thus unavailable for the recall. Toews really hasn’t done much in terms of offense down in Toledo though. Through 27 games, David Toews has 2 goals, 8 assists and a minus-8 in the ECHL.
Zanette, 23, did have a goal and an assist in Toledo’s game on Wednesday night. An IceHogs product last season, Zack Torquato won that game for Wheeling over the Walleye 23 seconds into overtime. For Zanette, it made for a goal and three helpers now in four games since returning. So, we’ll see if Zanette gets the call soon before the Blackhawks send a player back to Rockford or Rostislav Olesz returns. Zanette finished 6th in the NCAA in scoring (35gp, 29g, 26a) last season with Niagara University.
Last week when defenseman Dan Henningson was signed to a PTO, that also had to do with Simon Danis-Pepin being injured. Danis-Pepin went down in a game on November 30th against the Chicago Express and has been on injured reserve ever since.
IceHogs Playoff Hope
Rockford has now played 37 of 76 regular season games and they have earned 30 of a possible 74 points (.405).
The AHL playoff format changed for this season with the league adapting a three-division alignment with the same basic playoff format as the NHL. The three division winners get the top three seeds and from there all the teams pool together and rank by most points earned.
At this point, it appears to get into the 8th spot, a team will need a bare-minimum of 80 points. More likely, a team will need around 83 or 84 points.
For the IceHogs to get there, they’ll probably need to win 24 of their last 39 games, beginning Friday night in Oklahoma City. A record of something like 24-10-2-3 (.679) would get the IceHogs to 83 points.
The odds are very much against that and now there is no time to waste.
Jeremy Morin remains confident his team can turn their season in a direction towards the postseason.
“We have the players here in the locker room to do it, definitely,” Morin said after Wednesday’s loss in Rosemont. “We just need to play more as a team, limit the penalties and get our power play going.
“Five-on-five we played pretty well against any team in the league, but we just got to get it rolling a bit and string a couple wins together and I think we’ll get it going on the right track.”
IceHogs individual games without a goal: Ryan Stanton (47), Philippe Paradis (27), Simon Danis-Pepin (22), Brandon Svendsen (22), Brian Fahey (19), David Gilbert (16), Chris DiDomenico (15), Joe Lavin (11), Brett McLean (10), Brian Connelly (5), Kyle Beach (5), Brandon Bollig (3), Pete Leblanc (3), David Toews (2), Ben Youds (2), Rob Flick (1), Byron Froese (1), Rostislav Olesz (1), Dylan Olsen (1), Brandon Pirri (1), Brandon Segal (1), Andrew Shaw (1), Jimmy Hayes (-), Shawn Lalonde (-), Jeremy Morin (-), Ben Smith (-)…
IceHogs individual games without a point: Brandon Svendsen (5), Pete Leblanc (3), Simon Danis-Pepin (2), David Toews (2), Ben Youds (2), Kyle Beach (1), Brandon Bollig (1), Brian Fahey (1), Rob Flick (1), Byron Froese (1), David Gilbert (1), Joe Lavin (1), Brett McLean (1), Rostislav Olesz (1), Dylan Olsen (1), Philippe Paradis (1), Brandon Segal (1), Ryan Stanton (1), Brian Connelly (-), Chris DiDomenico (-), Jimmy Hayes (-), Shawn Lalonde (-), Jeremy Morin (-), Brandon Pirri (-), Andrew Shaw (-), Ben Smith (-)….
By the numbers
Brandon Pirri in his last 10 AHL games – 5g, 7a, +3, 37shots
Jeremy Morin – last 12 AHL games played – 4g, 9a, +2, 46sog… So far in his AHL career, Morin has 16 goals and 35 points in 53 career games.
In 29 games, Philippe Paradis has 1 goal, 7 assists and is a minus-9. Paradis has been credited with 28 shots on goal. The AHL doesn’t keep official hit stats, but I’d bet Paradis has almost four times as many hits as he does shots.
Back in November, Pete Leblanc was scratched for a few games. Once back in the lineup, Leblanc responded with 9 goals and 6 assists (-4) over his next 16 games. Since those sixteen, Leblanc has played eight games, he has 2 goals and 0 assists.
Since the beginning of December, team captain Brandon Segal has skated in 18 contests, accumulating 3 goals, 3 assists and a plus/minus of -11.
Alternate captain Brett McLean has 2 goals, 6 assists over his last 21 games played with Rockford. He’s also a minus-10 in that span.
Special teams not good since X-mas
Beginning Dec 26, Rockford’s power play is 3 for 33 (9.1%).
The PK has allowed 15 goals on the past 43 chances against (65.1%)
Rockford’s PK was impressive (stopping 6 of 7) in the 4-2 matinee loss at Chicago on Wednesday.