By Chris Block
Friday night in Oklahoma City, the Rockford IceHogs came from behind for only the second time this season when trailing after two periods to defeat the Barons 2-1 in overtime and send a Cox Convention Center crowd of 3,672 home in disbelief.
Ben Smith, who was reassigned to the AHL earlier in the day and flew into Oklahoma after playing for the Blackhawks on Thursday night, tipped a Brian Fahey wrist shot 2:50 into overtime to give the IceHogs the victory.
As the AHL team which allows the most goals per game, Rockford won for only the third time this season when being held to two goals or less (3-15-0-0). The previous two wins came via the shootout after managing two goals through 65 minutes.
Rockford fell behind first for the 24th time in 38 games when Oklahoma City center Marco Arcobello breezed into the left faceoff dot and beat Carter Hutton clean with a wrist shot at 14:22 of the opening period. It was just the second shot Hutton had faced, but the Rockford netminder’s night got better as it became busier.
Brandon Pirri nearly tied the game two minutes later when he challenged Barons’ starter Yann Danis with a snap shot from the right circle. Danis fought it off but allowed a rebound that Pirri overskated, allowing Oklahoma City to clear. That was as close as Rockford came to tying the score before the opening period closed. Rockford had outshot the Barons 7-2.
The teams traded power plays during the second period – the Barons owning the 3rd-best penalty kill in the AHL, the IceHogs the worst at 30th. On this night, both penalty killing units were perfect. Rockford 5 for 5, Oklahoma City 4 for 4.
Brandon Svendsen, signed to a Try-Out contract by the IceHogs on Tuesday, drew the first penalty of the period when he beat defenseman Dylan Yeo 1-on-1 in a determined rush up the middle of the ice. Yeo hacked Svendsen down just as the IceHogs winger got a shot off that was brushed aside by Danis.
The Barons didn’t get their first shot of the middle period, and third of the game until Ben Youds pulled down a Baron in the Hogs zone and put the Barons up a man. During that kill, Ben Smith worked hard to force the Barons into retreat mode and David Gilbert managed a short-handed rush up the right side of the ice but his off-wing shot was deflected into the mesh by Danis.
Rockford began the third period down a player as Byron Froese was cited for hooking with 8 seconds left in the middle frame. Right off the opening draw, won by the Barons, defenseman Dylan Yeo rushed up the middle of the ice through all four IceHogs skaters. Carter Hutton closed the pads and came up with his biggest stop of the game just six seconds into the period to keep Yeo off the board and the IceHogs deficit to one goal.
Brandon Svendsen drew another Barons’ penalty to negate the final 17 seconds of the Barons’ power play when he was pulled down trying to clear the puck 10 feet from Hutton’s cage by Mark Arcobello. Rockford failed to take advantage of the bad Arcobello penalty.
A minute after that chance expired, rookie winger Antti Tyrvainen slashed an aggressive Brandon Bollig to put the Barons back in the penalty box. 21 seconds later, Oklahoma City put itself down a second player when Tanner House was also cited for slashing. But Rockford managed one lone shot during the 5-on-3 and two total during the two penalties.
Rockford’s best chance came to Brandon Pirri’s stick but he missed the net. Brandon Segal had surged to the front of the net, but his shot was kicked back out. Brandon Svendsen, seeing time on the power play in his second game with Rockford, shoveled the puck across the crease to Pirri, but the IceHogs leading scorer missed wide. The IceHogs are now 4-15 on the season during 5-on-3 power plays, 2-10 on the road.
Brandon Segal went to the box with 7:06 left in the third after he pulled Arcobello down in the slot to prevent a prime scoring opportunity.
Just as the ensuing Barons power play ended, Oklahoma City rushed up the ice and Philippe Cornet slipped behind the Hogs’ defense. Cornet found himself one-on-one with Carter Hutton, but the IceHogs netminder was better.
Immediately, Brandon Segal won the puck and pushed it up to the IceHogs Philippe Paradis. Furiously pumping his legs to keep a step ahead of the Oklahoma City backchecker, Paradis drove hard up the right side of the ice. When it looked like Paradis might elect to continue around the back of the net, he cut hard to the net just before the goal line on his backhand, brought the puck to his forehand and slipped it under Yann Danis to tie the game 1-1 with 4:53 remaining in regulation. The goal ended a 27-game goal drought for Paradis.
With 30 seconds left, Pirri had the game on his stick, one-on-one with Danis but missed wide of the post on the short side from fifteen feet out.
In overtime, Ted Dent sent out the following sets of forwards, in this order: Pirri-Morin, Leblanc-Segal, Froese-Svendsen (short shift), Leblanc-Segal and Paradis-Smith.
Halfway into the overtime, Ben Smith won an offensive zone draw back to the blue line. Brian Fahey moved to the top of the point and let a shot go. On its way in, Ben Smith rushed the middle and tipped Fahey’s shot past Yann Danis to give the IceHogs their 2nd overtime victory in six days.
Oklahoma City (23-10-2-3) allows the fewest goals per game in the AHL and had lost just one game (15-0-1-0) in leading after two periods this season prior to Friday night’s contest.
For Rockford, Friday’s comeback represented just their 2nd win of the season when trailing after forty minutes (2-16-1-0). The other comeback victory also came six days ago in the IceHogs 6-5 OT win in Austin, Texas.
Rockford’s overall record improves to 14-20-1-3 as they hit the halfway mark of the season. At this point last season (game 38 of 80, this season is 76 games) the IceHogs record was 17-16-1-4. The ‘Hogs were in last place then as they are now, although there were three teams in the Western Conference with worse records a year ago this time.
The IceHogs now have an opportunity to make this 6-game road trip a winning one, when they face off with the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday night at the AT&T Center. With a win, Rockford can also improve its road record (8-9-1-2) to the .500 mark.
That won’t be easy. The IceHogs must first take a 7-plus hour bus ride from Oklahoma City to get to San Antonio for the second game of a back-to-back. Rockford is 3-6-0-1 in game two of back-to-backs and 3-7-0-0 in Saturday games. San Antonio (17-18-2-0) has been idle since Tuesday, when they were shutout at home by the Abbotsford Heat. Rockford has a victory already this season on the Rampage, a 6-3 win in the team’s only meeting so far back on Nov 23 at BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford returns home to the BMO on Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Kids Day, for a 1:05pm puck drop versus the Texas Stars.
IceHogs lines, pairings & scratches in Oklahoma City Friday night:
Jeremy Morin – Brandon Pirri – Ben Smith
Brandon Segal – Pete Leblanc – Byron Froese
Brett McLean – David Gilbert – Brandon Bollig
Brandon Svendsen – Rob Flick – Philippe Paradis
Ryan Stanton – Brian Connelly
Dylan Olsen – Ben Youds
Joe Lavin – Brian Fahey
Starter: Carter Hutton
Backup: Alec Richards
Scratches: Chris DiDomenico …. Shawn Lalonde (wrist)… Rostislav Olesz (upper-body)… Kyle Beach (right shoulder)… Alexander Salak (ankle)….
Power play I: Smith-Pirri-Morin w/ Connelly and Froese
Power play II: Segal –Leblanc-McLean w/Fahey and Olsen (later Lavin)
Penalty kill forwards: Segal-Froese, Gilbert-Svendsen, Bollig, Leblanc, Smith
Penalty kill defense: Stanton-Fahey, Olsen-Lavin, Youds
–This from the IceHogs’ Mike Peck – Back in Connecticut in his Pee-Wee days, Ben Smith played on the same team (and line) with Oklahoma City’s Mark Arcobello and Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.
–IceHogs are now 6-5-1-3 in one-goal games. Rockford has been defeated this season by three or more goals on 9 occasions.
–IceHogs are now 10-12-0-2 following a loss. It’s following up on a win (3-8-1-1) that they have the most trouble doing.
–Ben Smith has a goal in three of his last four IceHogs games. He was told he was being reassigned after Thursday night’s game at United Center as was well in route by the time the Blackhawks made it official on Friday.
—Carter Hutton stopped 18 shots in his 11th start (5-4-0-1) with the IceHogs. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but he made the stops and was as good as he had to be to get the win. With Salak’s return still probably another week away, the decision of who stays and who goes (Hutton or Richards) back to Toledo is may very well still be up for grabs. Alec Richards has been better of late, and Hutton had given up 14 goals in his previous 3 starts prior to Friday. However, when Salak comes back he’s going to be given every opportunity to be the number one and carry the bulk of the workload. Richards has another year on his contract with the Blackhawks and would be better off going down where he could get the work in since Salak figures to the backup in Chicago next season.
—Brandon Svendsen was in the lineup ahead of Chris DiDomenico. Haven’t heard of an injury for the latter. If not, that’s a pretty big statement. DiDomenico hasn’t made much of an impression on the organization since his arrival, Bill Peters last year or Ted Dent this season. Svendsen is a top scorer in the ECHL who spent a handful of games with Binghamton earlier this season and played 132 games in the AHL the previous two years. DiDomenico went from skating on the top line with Pirri and Morin, to not playing at all. Svendsen had a great game, drawing two penalties and getting time on both the power play and penalty kill. He gives that fourth line some skill and plays with a sense of urgency missing from some other player’s games.
—Ben Youds (AHL contract) will make the decision of who to sit when Shawn Lalonde returns to action this coming week very difficult. Youds gets better every game and has a good chemistry going with pairing-buddy Dylan Olsen. Dent has gone with 7 defenseman more than a handful of nights and hasn’t been afraid to do so even when he has to sit a healthy forward to do it. Youds can skate some shifts at wing too if need be. They way he’s performing, it will be hard to scratch Youds at this point.
–The power play is awful. Since the Christmas break (9 games), the IceHogs power play is 3 for 38. Their power play is too predictable. Its too passive; too many slow, high-percentage passes. When they cycle down low out of the right corner, all three forwards are moving away from the net. When shots get through there are rarely rebound chances. Their past two opponents (Rampage and the Wolves) are both great PK teams, but Rockford made things way too easy. Rockford’s PP seems content waiting for a seam to open, but they don’t get bodies to the doorstep or move enough in general to create open passing lanes into prime scoring areas. Its painful to watch because 5-on-5 the IceHogs are much better at challenging the opposition.
–Paradis’ lone shot of the game resulted in the game-tying goal. He could’ve had at least four more but he still has a terrible time getting his shot off typically and that’s because he takes too long and is caught from behind, has his stick lifted or the puck poked away before pulling the trigger. Its probably something that will come in time. In the meantime, he’s productive in his role as a human battering ram.
–Captain Brandon Segal had a very good game. Unlike the cross-check he took at the end of the second period against the Wolves on Wednesday, the penalty he took in the third period on Friday could be excused. Segal was energetic and all over the ice, playing the body and creating scoring chances for himself and others. He made a great quick read to spring Paradis on the game-tying goal and made the most aggressive attempt to get to OKC’s crease with the puck on the 5on3 power play.
–Our 3 stars of the game: 1-Ben Smith, 2-Brandon Segal, 3-Philippe Paradis
ChrisBlock @ TheThirdManIn.com
PuckChatter @ gmail.com