By Chris Block
After allowing 17 goals in their last two losses, 7 coming while the team was short-handed, the Rockford IceHogs held team and organizational meetings all last week focusing on eliminating the mindless and careless minor penalties which have plagued this team all season.
That’s all fine and well, but when it takes until late January to correct an issue that should have been nipped in the bud at least two months ago, losses like the one to the Chicago Wolves on Friday night sting even more.
On Friday, Rockford was narrowly outplayed by the Chicago Wolves, handing the IceHogs a 2-1 defeat in front of a sellout crowd of 6,097 fans at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The loss extends Rockford’s current losing streak to three games, but this loss wasn’t anything like the previous two.
After allowing 7 goals on 13 power play chances against in losses to Grand Rapids and the Texas Stars last Saturday and Monday respectively, this was a more composed group of IceHogs.
Now, in small part, this may have something to do with the fact that Rob Flick (6 games), Kyle Beach (1 game), Wade Brookbank (1 game) and Kenndal McArdle (1 game) were all up in the press box serving suspensions for their involvement in the 1/19 brawl with Grand Rapids, though undisciplined hockey extends much further in the IceHogs locker room . Or, perhaps, the IceHogs may have finally come to the realization that simply giving lip service to their discipline issues isn’t rectifying the situation.
Officially, Rockford was short-handed 5 times in Friday’s loss to Chicago. One of those was a bench minor for Too Many Men with 17.7 seconds to go in regulation. This negated an offensive zone face off at a time when the IceHogs were pressuring the Wolves and the action had heavily-favored the home team. Rockford was also assessed a bench minor for Too Many Men late in the second period. Dylan Olsen got a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass 1:16 into the third period. The one of the four calls going against Rockford on Friday that would fall under the undisciplined category was when Shawn Lalonde got his stick up in the face of Michael Davies during the second period. Lalonde’s stick drew blood on Davies, but the IceHogs penalty killers were able to kill off the 4 minute double minor penalty.
Carter Hutton had to be great in his return to the nets after sitting out Monday’s loss to Texas with a sore hand. He was just that save for two rebounds he left out in from of his crease that the Wolves were quick to beat Rockford defenders to. Hutton stopped 31 shots in his 34th start on the campaign. The loss drops his record to 16-14-1-1. Hutton is 2-4-0-1 versus the Chicago Wolves this season.
Joe Cannata was a little bit better, however. Specifically in the third period when the IceHogs peppered the Wolves third-string netminder with 13 shots and many more that didn’t get to the goal.
It took just a 1:12 into the game for Chicago to strike first.
Carter Hutton was able to stop a Wolves’ chance to his left after a defensive breakdown but the puck bounced out to Darren Haydar in the low slot, who beat Hutton’s right pad with the second-chance opportunity to give Chicago a quick 1-0 advantage. The goal was Haydar’s 8th. Assists on the play went to defenseman Peter Andersson and left winger Bill Sweatt.
Rockford evened the score at 8:54 of the first period when Brandon Svendsen found a wide open lane and Shawn Lalonde at the end of it. Svendsen circled around the Wolves’ goalie Joe Cannata’s goal and out into the low left circle. He had time to settle the puck with no one pressuring and hit Lalonde pinching off the right point. Lalonde snapped a shot from the top of the right circle by the waving stick of Philippe Paradis and past Cannata to tie the game 1-1. David Gilbert also picked up an assist on the goal.
The IceHogs were flat to start the game, so a determined effort by Svendsen, followed up by a nice shot by Lalonde, was sorely needed.
“It’s been the story all year, giving up goals five minutes in,” said Shawn Lalonde, who scored first goal in nineteen games. “Getting a goal a couple minutes later is nice.”
As noted, the IceHogs were uncharacteristically disciplined for the first period and change, until Lalonde got his stick up on Michael Davies in the Rockford zone. Lalonde’s stick drew blood but Rockford’s penalty kill did a great job killing off the four minute Wolves’ man advantage.
Shortly after this kill though, Darren Haydar led a couple Chicago rushes back-to-back into the IceHogs end. On the latter of those, Peter Andersson jumped into the rush, accepted a Haydar pass and fired a shot at Hutton from a bad angle, nearly goal line extended left. Hutton blocked the shot down, but the rebound laid out atop his crease and Darren Haydar was camped in front for the rebound. Andersson picked up the lone assist on Haydar’s 2nd tally of the night.
Haydar’s second would stand as the difference in the game in spite of a spirited IceHogs third period onslaught.
With the loss, the IceHogs’ third straight, the team drops back to the .500 mark at a record of 20-20-1-1.
IceHogs head coach Ted Dent watched the game from the stands, serving the first of his two-game suspension. He indicated he liked what he saw of his team, for the most part.
“Yeah, from up top, it’s a different game,” Dent said. “I thought we played a pretty decent game. Defensively we were pretty good, other than our first couple minutes of the game when they got a quick one.”
After allowing opponents a total of 40 power plays in the past 6 games alone, Dent was happy with his team’s discipline on Friday.
“It’s a good sign,” said Dent. “I think we went a period and a half before our first penalty. And we were just playing five-on-five and good sound hockey. And that’s what we’ve talked about the last three days – it has to end, the undisciplined penalties. I liked our sticks – they were on the ice for the most part. And we really didn’t take any careless penalties. I didn’t really see Shawn Lalonde’s (high-sticking double-minor).”
Next up is the last game before the All-Star break as the IceHogs host the Oklahoma City Barons at 7pm tonight at the BMO.
Tonight is Trading Card giveaway night. The first 2,500 fans through the gates receive an IceHogs retro team trading card set.
Oklahoma City (19-17-2-4) is coming in off an 8-2 loss on Friday in Milwaukee. It’s a much different team that is was three weeks ago, sans Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, though RNH had left the team in mid-December for the World Juniors.
—Rockford’s lines, pairings & scratches vs Chicago on Friday
39-Martin St. Pierre / 17-Jimmy Hayes / 32-Pete Leblanc
37-Terry Broadhurst / 27-Brandon Pirri / 19-Jeremy Morin
11-Philippe Paradis / 29-David Gilbert / 7-Brandon Svendsen
24-Adam Hobson / 23-Mickey Lang
4-Ryan Stanton / 2-Adam Clendening
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 5-Ben Youds
3-Dylan Olsen / 9-Shawn Lalonde
30-Carter Hutton (starter)
35-Alec Richards (backup)
Suspended: 12-LW-Kyle Beach (1 of 1)… 15-LW-Wade Brookbank (1 of 1)… 25-LW-Kenndal McArdle (1 of 1)…. 26-C-Rob Flick (game 2 of 6)… Head coach Ted Dent (1 of 2)…
Injuries: 21-RW-Ben Smith (left hand, 1/11 vs GR, 3-4 weeks estimated)
-IceHogs went with seven defenseman, easing Joe Lavin back into the lineup after missing 23 games with his right injury suffered on Nov 24th at Lake Erie.
–Barry Smith (Chicago Blackhawks Director of Player Development) was behind the bench, standing in Ted Dent’s customary position. The official word was Smith was just taking notes and doing some evaluating from the bench. Smith was also to do some light ‘assisting’ of Rockford assistant coaches Steve Poapst (defense) and Ben Simon (forwards) and not acting as a temporary head coach. And from observing the bench from time to time during the game, that did appear to be the case. That noted, there’s something about the symbolism that is bothersome.
The official word regarding Smith’s presence on the bench in Dent’s absence was that it was a “group” decision. Barry Smith does spend a lot of his time in Rockford working with many of the Blackhawks prospects and consulting with Dent and his coaching staff.
While serving his 2-game suspension, Dent is not allowed in the team’s locker room or to communicate with any players from 5pm until just after the game.
As he does after every game, Dent met with the media to discuss the contest.
-Dent on his two-game suspension and others handed down by the AHL against his players:
“Well, it is what it is. It’s unfortunate that everything happened. I’d rather be on the bench, for sure. And I’d rather have those guys in the lineup that are out of the lineup. But we get three of them back tomorrow night and we’ll go from there.”
-Newly acquired goaltender Henrik Karlsson was unable to get into town in time for Friday’s game. Karlsson didn’t get his work visa straightened out until Friday morning. He didn’t land at O’Hare airport until late Friday night.
Karlsson is expected to practice with the IceHogs and be dressed for Saturday night’s game against Oklahoma City. He’ll likely be the backup.
–Chicago Wolves lines, pairings & scratches on Friday at Rockford
23-Bill Sweatt / 10-Andrew Gordon / 20-Darren Haydar
22-Darren Archibald / 8-Eric Kattelus / 13-Michael Davies
36-Kenton Miller / 26-Alex Friesen / 28-Stefan Schneider
14-Tim Miller / 28-Guillaume Desbiens
2-Brad Hunt / 12-Jim Vandermeer
25-Mark Matheson / 6-Kevin Connauton
5-Peter Andersson / 7-Derek Joslin
35-Joe Cannata (starter)
30-Mathieu Corbeil (backup)