By Chris Block
Rockford emerged victorious in another see-saw affair with division rival Peoria on Wednesday night.
The IceHogs got out to a two goal lead as Adam Clendening scored in the first minute of the game and Brandon Saad notched a short-handed goal later in the period. But the IceHogs then allowed three unanswered first period goals and trailed 3-2 after the opening frame. Rockford responded, scoring three unanswered goals of their own in route to an eventual 5-4 win.
Jeremy Morin was the biggest factor in the comeback, scoring power play tallies in the second and third period. Martin St. Pierre had the other Rockford goal.
“That was a big win for us,” said Morin, the game’s number one star, after the game.
“We needed it. It was good to get the power play going. We need to start producing [on the power play] and not taking so many penalties. That is going to be huge for us.”
Morin scored his 6th and 7th goals in the game. Both came on the power play. After a stretch that saw Rockford’s PP unit go 0 for 15, the IceHogs have gone 4 for 10 with the man advantage in the past two games.
Rockford wasted little time getting ahead to a 1-0 lead when Adam Clendening shot from the top of the point sailed by two Peoria defenders and then goaltender Jake Allen at the 56 second mark. Jimmy Hayes, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, had poked checked a Peoria defender inside the Rivermen zone. Ben Smith gained possession along the left wall, made a ten foot pass back to Hayes, who fed Clendening for the shot. Smith’s assist extended his personal point streak to four games. Hayes had the second helper, snapping four games without a point for him.
The IceHogs extended their lead at the 12:00 mark with Brandon Bollig in the box serving and interference minor. Brandon Saad broke in alone on Jake Allen for the unassisted short-handed goal after picking off an Evgeny Grachev pass under pressure by Marcus Kruger. For Saad it was his 3rd goal in nine games this season. As a team, this marked the IceHogs fourth short-handed tally. Just seconds prior to the goal, Saad had led a two-on-one rush up the ice, setting up a nice Marcus Kruger scoring chance after a nice pick in the defensive zone by Klas Dahlbeck.
Then the wheels fell off for Rockford.
Riverment forward Tyler Shattock corralled a bouncing puck in the slot and backhanded a feed to Phil McRae who beat a sprawled out Carter Hutton at 13:17 of the period to trim Rockford’s advantage to a goal. The play broke down in Peoria’s favor when Klas Dahlbeck had a chance to clear the zone by ringing a puck from behind the net up and around the near wall. Instead, Dahlbeck threw it up the ice to Peoria’s right point defenseman. The Rivermen worked the puck low, then back out to the slot where Mark Cundari fired a slap shot on Hutton. The rebound bounced out to Shattock in the low slot and eventually was put home by McRae. The goal came three seconds after the Bollig interference minor had expired.
Under two minutes later, Nick Leddy allowed a hard forechecking Cody Beach to skate by and take possession of his own dump-in behind the IceHogs goal. Beach fell down, got up, took the puck away from Ryan Stanton and Nick Leddy and sent the puck back to the point where Ian Cole fired a shot through a Brandon Saad stand-up shot block attempt and by Carter Hutton.
Peoria then took a 3-2 lead with 45 seconds left in the opening period when Jaden Schwartz quickly snapped off a Cody Beach feed from behind the net into the low slot and beat Hutton’s blocker. Cody Beach again stickhandled a puck behind the IceHogs net unchallenged. This time it was Mark Cundari’s shot, looking for a Schwartz’ tip in front, that deflected wide. Beach picked it up and fed it behind three IceHogs to Schwartz for the score.
Carter Hutton was pulled from the net after allowing 3 goals on 9 shots in the first period. Alec Richards was between the pipes the rest of the way making his fourth appearance of the season, second in relief of Hutton.
“We just broke down a little bit and gave them some chances and they were opportunistic,” IceHogs head coach Ted Dent said. “We had to be better.”
Dent said explained his decision to pull Hutton after the first period:
“I mean, 3 goals on 9 shots. (Peoria) had all the momentum,” said Dent. “I don’t know whose fault the goals were. It’s a team thing. But they can’t get 3 goals on 9 shots. We’ve kept teams below 30 shots for nine-straight games and that’s a pretty good number. So, we gotta keep the puck out of the net.”
Martin St. Pierre picked up his 4th goal of the season when Jimmy Hayes’ shot from the far left circle was blocked down by Jake Allen directly down and onto St. Pierre’s right skate. The puck redirected off St. Pierre and behind Allen to tie the score 3-3 at the 17:32 mark of the second period.
While lining up for the ensuing draw at center ice, Brandon Bollig and Cody Beach were having words. As the puck dropped Bollig immediately dropped his gloves but Peoria defenseman, and team captain, Scott Ford jumped in to fight the IceHogs’ enforcer. Bollig was able to pull the Rivermen sweater over Ford’s head and land a couple solid left hands.
Just after the next puck drop, Cody Beach went to the box when he slashed Philippe Paradis fifty feet behind the play.
25 seconds after the St. Pierre’s skate tied the game, and 12 seconds into the power play, Jeremy Morin cashed in on the Cody Beach penalty to give Rockford a 4-3 lead. After Marcus Kruger won the faceoff and Nick Leddy’s point shot was blocked down, Morin spun the puck back up to Leddy, who dished over to Clendening at the right point. Clendening wristed a shot on goal and Morin was back in front in time to collect on the rebound opportunity.
Jeremy Morin capitalized on another Peoria penalty at 7:20 of the third period off a great setup by Marcus Kruger. Joe Lavin did a nice job of keeping a puck in the offensive zone at the blue line. Lavin swatted the puck away from a Rivermen player and too Morin in the high slot. Morin then sent the puck low to Kruger who settled the puck and setup a charging Morin who snapped a shot over Jake Allen’s glove and inside the far right post to give Rockford its second two-goal lead of the contest.
Peoria trimmed the score to 5-4 in the final minute of regulation when Sergey Andronov pounced on a rebound from another Mark Cundari point shot and slipped a shot under Alec Richards left leg with 14.3 seconds remaining.
The Rivermen gained possession of the ensuing faceoff and Marcus Kruger coughed up a pass he momentarily intercepted but Peoria couldn’t manage a shot on Richards before time expired.
The win lifts Rockford (6-8-0-1) back up to a game below the .500 mark, where they’ve been now for the fifth time this season. The loss drops Peoria (5-8-2-1) down into last place in the Midwest Divison. It also snaps the Rivermen’s three-game win streak.
Rockford next travels to Cleveland for a weekend set with the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday and Saturday evenings. The IceHogs return home to the BMO on Tuesday night when they host Cam Barker and the Texas Stars.
–Rockford’s lines, pairings and scratches Wednesday vs Peoria
Brandon Saad – Marcus Kruger – Jeremy Morin
Martin St. Pierre – Jimmy Hayes – Ben Smith
Pete Leblanc – Brandon PIrri – Kyle Beach
Brandon Bollig – Rob Flick – Philippe Paradis
Nick Leddy – Ryan Stanton
Dylan Olsen – Joe Lavin
Klas Dahlbeck – Adam Clendening
Carter Hutton (starter)
Alec Richards (backup) – Relieves Hutton at start of 2nd Period
Scratches: D-Brett Lebda, W-Wade Brookbank
Suspensions: Andrew Shaw (game 6 of 6)… Shawn Lalonde (game 1 of 3)…
Injuries: W-Brandon Svendsen (right arm)
Power play I: Saad-Kruger-Morin w/Leddy & Clendening
Power play II: Pirri-St. Pierre-Smith w/Olsen & Leblanc
PK forwards: Kruger-Saad, Smith-Bollig, St. Pierre-Hayes
PK defense: Leddy-Stanton, Olsen-Dahlbeck, Stanton-Dahlbeck, Olsen-Lavin
-The IceHogs penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5 on the kill on Wednesday. Including the 9-in-a-row killed off against Houston last Friday, the PK has killed off 14 straight on home ice.
-Rockford’s power play had gone three homes games without converting. It was 2-6 on Wednesday. Overall on home ice the IceHogs are 8 for 50 (16%) on the power play.
-Brett Lebda was a healthy scratch for the 3rd straight game… Philippe Paradis returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three-consecutive contests…. Joe Lavin returned after being scratched from both games against Houston last weekend.
-Klas Dahlbeck gets stronger and more confident each game. Ted Dent will have some interesting decisions to make once Shawn Lalonde returns from his suspension after the two games this weekend. He has 8 defenseman. After the game Dent said that there are still some players who aren’t carrying their own weight. He didn’t mention names but you’d think by watching games that Nick Leddy is one of those guys. But scratching Leddy is a difficult one. Brett Lebda has been underperforming, but realistically no more than Leddy. Lalonde strung a few nice games in a row together but the only things he has going over Lebda are a right-handed shot and a Blackhawks contract. Dylan Olsen has been in the doghouse for lacking the intensity the coaching staff and brass seek in his game. Joe Lavin has really struggled to pick up where he left off last year in his first season as a pro when he was the IceHogs rookie of the year. Clendening makes mistakes but he’s also the best defenseman they have at getting shots on the net, which is mostly why he’s on the first power play unit. Stanton, Dahlbeck and Olsen (when he’s on) are their best shut down blueliners. So there’s likely to be a rotating group of four – Lebda, Lalonde, Lavin and Olsen (Dahlbeck if Olsen gets back on track consistently) who get sat out of the lineup if and when there’s a healthy and available group of eight starting next Tuesday.
-It should be noted that Brett Lebda has a 25-game contract and has played in 10 games up until now. He has 3 assists and is a team-worst minus-8 plus/minus ratio.
-5 of the next 6 games the IceHogs play will be on the road. This weekend they play a two-game set in Cleveland. Next weekend its in Charlotte. The other road game comes in Rosemont this coming Wednesday Nov 28 for the 4th of 12 regular season meetings against the Chicago Wolves.