By Chris Block
Once night removed from a 6-1 clobbering at the hands of the Chicago Wolves in their first preseason game, the Rockford IceHogs returned home to clip the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 in a shootout victory.
In the end, the three deciding IceHogs’ goals all came off sticks of players who played or finished last season with the Blackhawks.
Carter Hutton started the game for Rockford and gave up a deflating goal against to Milwaukee’s Jani Lajunen at 7:30 of the period. The goal defined the first period for the IceHogs. Lajunen picked up a puck along the goal line to Hutton’s left and tossed a weak backhand attempt toward the Rockford goaltender. Hutton was a couple feet off the post and was caught off guard by the shot, which hit him in the left pad and trickled over the goal line to give the Admirals the early lead.
The period as a whole was largely forgettable for the IceHogs. With 11 players seeing their first game action of the preseason, nearly everyone seemed sluggish and the team was out of synch.
With four and a half minutes left in the first period, Daniel Bang (apparently pronounced “Bong” So, Dan Bong-banged in the rebound. Okay, I’m done.) scored a power play tally for Milwaukee when he picked up a rebound and beat Hutton to give the Admirals a 2-0 lead. A hooking penalty to Brandon Pirri had sent Milwaukee to the power play. Marcus Kruger and Jimmy Hayes were sent out kill the first portion of Pirri’s penalty. But the trouble began when Kruger was kicked out of the circle on the defensive zone draw. Hayes then came in and lost the draw, pinning Rockford against it in their own zone.
A minute later Brett Lebda was sent to the box for slashing. The IceHogs did a good job of killing off the penalty and avoiding a three goal deficit but it was Carter Hutton’s sprawling right pad save on Jusso Puustinen while Lebda’s penalty was expiring that kept his IceHogs in the game.
Marcus Kruger got the IceHogs got on the board at 6:23 of the second period. Kruger had drifted into the high slot after winning an offensive zone face off in the left circle. Kruger won the draw back to defenseman Joe Lavin who pushed the puck down the wall to Byron Froese, who then found Kruger for the quick snap shot that beat Milwaukee’s Jeremy Smith cleanly.
Midway through the period both teams switched their netminders. Hutton left the game having stopped 9 of 11 Admirals shots. Six-foot five Magnus Hellberg entered the game for Milwaukee.
Late in the middle frame, Rockford tied the game when a goal mouth scramble for the puck resulted in Ben Smith cashing in his first goal of the preseason at 18:12 of the period. The goal was originally given to Andrew Shaw. However, when asked about the goal after the game Shaw admitted it was Smith’s goal and the official scoring was corrected.
A quickly paced third period saw few whistles as referee Trevor Hanson put his whistle away. Hanson, the lone referee for this game, was completely out of position four minutes into the period when the IceHogs had established possession in the Milwaukee zone. A Joe Lavin shot then rang off both posts and appeared to at least come close to crossing the line but Hanson was up along the half wall and didn’t have a proper view to determine if it did or not so the game continued tied at 2-2.
Seconds later Jimmy Hayes was sprung up the middle for his best scoring chance of the night but he wristed a rising shot off Magnus Hellberg’s right shoulder.
Later, with 4:44 left in regulation time, Brandon Bollig got called for goaltender interference but the IceHogs’ penalty kill was up to the task and the game would eventually need overtime to be decided.
Mac Carruth, in his first action as a professional, came up with the best stop during the four-on-four extra session with a quick left glove save, stopping a partial breakaway with 16.8 seconds remaining.
Rockford’s first three shooters in the shootout competition all scored. Nick Leddy (top left corner over stick shoulder), followed by Brandon Pirri (deke to the backhand around the left pad) and Brandon Bollig (five hole) all beat Hellberg. Andrew Shaw was the IceHogs fourth shooter. He tried a between the legs wrist shot which failed. Marcus Kruger was the team’s final shooter and Hellberg stopped him with a right leg kick save. After the game Shaw claimed he would never attempt that between the legs shot during the regular season.
Carruth stopped three of five Milwaukee shooters to seal a 3-2 IceHogs victory.
–Rockford’s lines and scratches on Thursday night:
Andrew Shaw – Brandon Pirri – Ben Smith
Pete Leblanc – Martin St. Pierre – Jimmy Hayes
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Byron Froese
Wade Brookbank – Chris DeSousa – Philippe Paradis
Nick Leddy – Shawn Lalonde
Brett Lebda – Adam Clendening
Joe Lavin – Ben Youds
Carter Hutton (started, pulled 9:30 of 2nd period)
Mac Carruth (played final 30:30 of regulation, OT and shootout)
Special teams units:
PP1: St Pierre, Pirri, Smith w/ Leddy & Clendening
PP2: Kruger, Leblanc, Shaw w/ Lebda & Lalonde
PK forwards (varied): Shaw-Smith, Kruger-Leblanc, Hayes, Paradis
PK defense (varied): Lavin-Youds, Leddy-Lalonde, Lebda-Youds
W-Kyle Beach, W-Terry Broadhurst, C-Rob Flick, C-David Gilbert, W-Jeremy Morin, W-Brandon Saad, D-Klas Dahlbeck, D-Dylan Olsen, D-Ryan Stanton, G-Alec Richards, G-Kent Simpson
Brandon Svendsen (upper body, 6-8 weeks)
List of the eight players who played in both Wednesday and Thursday’s exhibition games:
Adam Clendening, Ben Youds, Joe Lavin, Shawn Lalonde, Philippe Paradis, Ben Smith, Byron Froese and Chris DeSousa
-Chicago Blackhawks hockey ops and coaches in attendance watching the game were Stan Bowman, Scotty Bowman, Norm Maciver, Barry Smith, Mark Bernard, Joel Quenneville, Jamie Kompon and Stephane Waite. Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz was also in Rockford on Thursday night checking out his organization’s prospects.
-Forwards Travis Novak and Jake Trask were released from their try out agreements prior to Thursday’s game. Both had skated in Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Chicago Wolves in Rolling Meadows. Novak had impressed the coaching staff somewhat during the first few days of camp but it was apparently not enough to justify keeping him around for another look.
Trask had already signed a deal with the Toledo Walleye, the Blackhawks and IceHogs’ ECHL affiliate, last month. Novak is expected to head to Toledo as well.
Former Blackhawks prospect Adam Hobson signed an ECHL deal with Toledo for this season. Hobson, who turns 26 in January, spent the previous two seasons playing in Sweden’s ‘B’ league. Hobson had 4 goals and 16 assists with Boras in the HockeyAllsvenskan league last season. However, financial issues have since forced Boras down into the third-tier league in Sweden.
-A Rockford team captain isn’t expected to be named for at least a couple weeks, but the three players who wore the alternate captain ‘A’s on Thursday night were Wade Brookbank, Brett Lebda and Nick Leddy.
I would doubt the team captaincy would go to Leddy, or any of the player’s you wouldn’t expect to be around if and when the NHL lockout is settled. Most people believe the ‘C’ will wind up on Ryan Stanton’s sweater. Stanton has become a guy a lot of IceHogs players gravitate to. He’ll be around all season and seems to be ready for that role.
-The injury to winger Brandon Svendsen is unrelated to the shoulder injury he rehabilitated of the summer. The Rockford Register Star has reported Svendsen is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. It’s a really unfortunate thing for Svendsen as it increases the odds he’ll be sent down to Toledo when he’s healthy enough for a return. With the ‘Hogs loaded at forward due to the influx of players who would have, or could have competed for, jobs in Chicago, Svendsen was going to be in a battle for a Rockford roster spot anyhow. Now when he returns, barring injuries, it’s likely he’ll be sent to the ECHL on a conditioning assignment at the very least. It’s an unfortunate setback for the 27-year old who was a key role player in the IceHogs resurgence in the second half of last season.
-Aside from Svensen, the only player in training camp who did not dress in either of the first two preseason games was Swedish defenseman Klas Dahlbeck.
-17 of the 20 Milwaukee players dressed for Thursday’s game were Nashville Predators’ prospects. 15 of Rockford’s 20 have contracts with the Blackhawks. The five dressed who don’t were Chris DeSousa, Ben Youds, Wade Brookbank, Brett Lebda and Martin St. Pierre.
-We’ll have more upcoming in an interview conducted with Brett Lebda last night, but it doesn’t sound like the 30-year old Buffalo Grove native is looking to spend this entire season in Rockford.
Lebda signed a 25-game professional try-out agreement with the IceHogs on September 21st.
–Adam Clendening was injured during the second period and did not return to the game.
IceHogs’ head coach Ted Dent was in meetings immediately after the game with Stan Bowman, Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Jamie Kompon. So, assistant coach Steve Poapst addressed the media.
Poapst said he didn’t have an update on Clendening’s injury or status immediately following the game.
“I don’t have any update at this point,” Poapst said. “He left the game to deal with something. We hope it’s not going to be too long.”
Clendening walked out of the BMO Harris Bank Arena soon after the game ended. The injury is not thought to be too serious.
–Martin St. Pierre average a 5-to-1 assist to goal ratio last season with the Springfield Falcons, and has always been known for being a set up guy, but he passed on a wide open net from ten feet out on the IceHogs first power play during the first period. Instead, St. Pierre forced a pass into the slot which didn’t result in a scoring chance. Jeremy Smith, a Predators’ 2nd round pick in 2007, apparently didn’t think St. Pierre would shoot from that angle, on his forehand atop the goal line extended right, as Smith was two feet off his post, anticipating a pass, and leaving a wide open side for St. Pierre to shoot into. It’s just one night, and the first game, but it’ll be one long frustrating season if incidents like this become a regular occurrence.
-Tickets to Thursday night’s game at the BMO were completely free, courtesy of the Rockford Register Star, the town’s main newspaper. No official attendance was taken but it had to be around 1,000.
–David Toews is now playing for the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL. Toews appeared in two games with the IceHogs last season. He struggled with injuries in Toledo, posting 3 goals and 11 assists in 42 games.
-The IceHogs will complete their 3-game preseason schedule on Saturday night in Peoria.
The 2012-13 regular season begins the following weekend, October 13th and 14th in Rosemont, Illinois with a pair of games against the Chicago Wolves. Start time for the Sunday game is 3pm.
Rockford’s home opener is Saturday October 20th against the Charlotte Checkers. First 5,000 fans get an IceHogs calendar that night. The next day is a rematch with Charlotte and the first 2,500 fans receive a magnet schedule for that 5:05 puck drop with the Checkers.