By Chris Block
Going into Tuesday night’s matchup, the IceHogs had never managed a regulation win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in ten previous meetings.
They still have yet to earn one.
Rockford held a 2-goal lead with 3:05 to play in the third period in Hamilton, Ontario on Tuesday night, only to watch the Bulldogs score the next three goals in a 3:31 stretch, and take a 5-4 overtime win before a sparse Copps Coliseum crowd, announced as 1,990.
The IceHogs got two goals from rookie winger Mark McNeill, as well as Garret Ross’s first professional tally. But it was the inability to hold a two-goal lead late stained what was otherwise a solid road performance.
Rockford was playing its AHL-leading sixth road contest of season. The IceHogs came in holding a 3-2 road record.
Garret Ross notched his first career pro goal just 31 seconds into the game off a nice centering pass from Mark McNeill. All five IceHogs skaters touched the puck leading into the goal. Klas Dahlbeck kept a hot puck in the Hamilton end under pressure when he whacked an oncoming puck from the left point down into the right corner. Adam Clendening pinched down the wall to keep that puck in the Bulldogs’ zone and putted it down to Phillip Danault beyond the goal line. Danault won a board battle and dished to McNeill, who cycled out to Hamilton netminder Dustin Tokarski’s right and sent a feed into the slot to Ross, who quickly snapped off a one-timer that beat Tokarski by his stick and right blocker side.
Hamilton tied the game at 15:37 of the opening period, just seconds after an Adam Clendening interference penalty had expired.
Ten-year veteran Nick Tarnasky got the goal. And he started the play as well when he skated back into the neutral zone to retrieve a puck. The Bulldogs quickly turned the puck around. Louis Leblanc entered the Rockford zone on a two-on-two with Gabriel Dumont, against Viktor Svedberg and Dylan Olsen. Dumont took Svedberg to the goal, but Leblanc pulled up and turned away from Olsen and back into the IceHogs’ back check. With Clendening and Jeremy Morin trailing the play to the strong side, Garret Ross left his position to throw a body check on Leblanc as the Bulldogs’ forward cut towards the slot. This left Tarnasky uncovered as the trailer on the weak side. Louis Leblanc’s pass got through Ross and Tarnasky blew a shot by Kent Simpson’s glove to tie the game 1-1.
The Bulldogs pressed Rockford the remainder of the opening twenty minutes but were unable to gain the lead. Akim Aliu whiffed on a great chance in front of Simpson with 3:30 to go. Clendening took a second first period minor with 1:23 to go, putting Hamilton on its second-straight power play. Clendening had picked up Gabriel Dumont as he was driving to the goal and put the Bulldogs center over the top of Simpson. Clendening gave Dumont another shot while he was trying to get up and the ref cited the second-year IceHogs blueliner for roughing. Hamilton had a few chances but were unable to take advantage before the break.
After the IceHogs penalty killers staved off the remaining 37 seconds of Clendening’s roughing minor, the second period turned into a bit of an end-to-end track meet. A few minutes into the frame Alex Broadhurst had a great chance from the same spot Aliu whiffed in earlier. Broadhurst connected on his chance, however, but Tokarski was able to come up with a big save to keep the score tied. Down at the other end, Steve Quailer failed to connect on a strong cross-ice feed by Aliu to Kent Simpson’s back door. After a whistle, Aliu hustled to beat Jared Nightingale to a puck. Nightingale got his stick in at Aliu’s legs and the former Blackhawks’ prospect took a spill, prompting a Nightingale tripping minor, called at 5:46 of the second period. But Rockford killed off this Hamilton power play as well.
A minute later, Hamilton center Ben Duffy high-sticked Brad Winchester in the face while four players were battling for the puck along the half wall in the Rockford zone. Apparently the two officials didn’t see it, however, and Duffy was able to pick up the puck, as it seemed the IceHogs were expecting a whistle for a penalty, and Duffy then set up Justin Courtnall one-on-one with Simpson. But Simpson was able to make one of his more awkward-looking stops of the night.
Rockford took a 2-1 lead with 5:31 to go in the second period off a nifty passing sequence by Pat Mullane and Jimmy Hayes. The play started when Dylan Olsen poked the puck away from Stefan Fournier at the IceHogs blue line. Terry Broadhurst took the puck and fired a cross ice pass to Mullane, who gained the Hamilton blue line. Mullane quickly fed Hayes, who pitched a feed off the heel of his stick, and through his own legs, into the middle of the ice. Terry Broadhurst regained the puck there with speed and beat Tokarski cleanly with a quick backhand to forehand deke by the stick and blocker of an outstretched Tokarski. The goal was the older Broadhurst brother’s second of the season. Mullane picked up his first professional point in getting the secondary assist on the goal.
The second period ended with Rockford leading 2-1 in the score column but trailing 17-15 on the official shot board.
Rockford looked to make holding their one goal lead difficult for themselves in the opening minutes of the third period. Garret Ross and Jeremy Morin each committed hooking penalties twenty seconds apart to put the IceHogs on the wrong end of a 5-on-3, potentially for a minute and forty seconds. Ross got his stick under the arm of Eric Nystrom and took him down needlessly with both Olsen and Clendening in position to take care of Nystrom. Morin hooked Bulldogs defenseman Greg Pateryn when pursuing a puck against the Hamilton defender in the neutral zone.
Luckily, for Rockford, a couple Bulldogs skaters were gracious enough to cut their team’s 2-man advantage short by taking back-to-back penalties of their own. 38 seconds into the 5-on-3, Greg Pateryn couldn’t handle a bouncing puck at the IceHogs blue line and wound up spinning Brad Mills around and down in the neutral zone as the two got caught up with the linesman as Pateryn tried to prevent Mills from taking off on a breakaway. 17 seconds later, Maxime Macenauer stuck his right leg out and tripped up Klas Dahlbeck fifteen feet from Kent Simpson’s net.
All this resulted in a rare 3-on-3 stretch for 45 seconds. Ted Dent sent out Terry Broadhurst and Danault with Dylan Olsen. The trio held puck possession inside the Hamilton zone for the next 45 seconds with Broadhurst and Olsen each missing on prime chances. But as Rockford’d 4-on-3 power play began, Hamilton’s Sven Andrighetto gained possession, sped up ice and into the IceHogs zone. Andrighetto wound up and ripped a shot from atop the left circle to the far side, over Simpson’s glove and just off the inside of the iron and into the back of the net to tie the game 2-2. The goal was unassisted at 3:18 of the third period and Andrighetto’s second of the season.
Mills drew another Bulldogs’ penalty at 6:13 of the third frame when Gabriel Dumont got caught for tripping. Mills had a step on two Hamilton defenders. Dumont hooked Mills down. The official right in front of the play chose not to call the trip, but the referee trailing the play did.
Mark McNeill was glad he did. McNeill potted his 3rd of the young season on the ensuing power play. McNeill, parked on the doorstep, received a backhanded Terry Broadhurst setup pass from aside the net at 7:46 and pounded that puck by Dustin Tokarski to give the IceHogs a 3-2 lead with 12:14 to go in regulation. Alex Broadhurst picked up the secondary assist, marking the first time both Broadhurst brothers figured in on an IceHogs goal.
Viktor Svedberg got called for holding a minute later but the Bulldogs were unable to convert against the IceHogs penalty kill again. Hamilton was 0 for 6 on the night.
Rockford withstood a Bulldogs burst with five minutes to go. An Aliu shot beat Simpson clean but clanked off the post. Then Simpson made a great stop on a Joel Chouinard shot from the left point.
On the next shift, Olsen and Clendening connected to start an IceHogs breakout. Phillip Danault took a pass from Clendening and sped through the neutral zone. Once he gained the Hamilton zone, Danault dropped the puck back to McNeill atop the right circle. McNeill had time to set up his shot and unleashed a blast that beat Tokarski’s glove at 16:05 and gave the IceHogs a 4-2 lead.
The Bulldogs would trim Rockford’s lead to one a minute and twenty-seven seconds later. With a couple IceHogs forwards changing, Sven Andrighetto was able to sneak into the offensive zone late as Eric Nystrom attempted a wrap-around chance. Nystrom found the late man and Kent Simpson had no chance with Jared Nightingale screening him as Andrighetto picked upper left corner at 17:32 of the third period.
Brad Mills nearly ended the game with a minute left when he was looking at an empty-net, but the puck temporarily got away from him at the Bulldogs’ blue line and Mills was called off sides.
Then, with the seconds ticking down on regulation and Tokarski pulled for an extra Bulldogs’ attacker, former IceHog Akim Aliu was able to sneak a rebound chance past Simpson to tie the game at 4-4 and send it to overtime. The goal, with 18.4 seconds to play in the third, was Aliu’s 2nd of the season and was assisted by Louis Leblanc and Gabriel Dumont.
Overtime lasted just 1:03. Only a handful of seconds were played inside the IceHogs end, but that was all Hamilton needed.
After Tokarski stopped a couple Rockford chances, Louis Leblanc carried into the IceHogs zone and followed his own shot on net. Kent Simpson let out a rebound. Gabriel Dumont took a whack at it but it was Leblanc who smacked the puck by Simpson to earn Hamilton its 2nd win of the season.
Rockford blew a two goal lead with 3:55 to go. And Hamilton rebounded to win the game off three goals in a span of 3:31 to steal the victory.
The IceHogs do pick up a consolation point, though. All-time versus Hamilton, Rockford’s record slides to 2-8-1-0.
Rockford’s 2013-14 record is now 4-2-1-0. They move on to Toronto on Wednesday night where they’ll meet the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum at 7pm eastern, 6 central.
–Ted Dent’s lines, pairings, scratches and special teams on Tuesday
11-Brad Winchester / 14-Drew Leblanc / 19-Jeremy Morin
37-Terry Broadhurst / 16-Brad Mills / 17-Jimmy Hayes
26-Garret Ross / 18-Phillip Danault / 28-Mark McNeill
25-Alex Broadhurst / 20-Pat Mullane / 24-Byron Froese
3-Dylan Olsen / 2-Adam Clendening
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 6-Jared Nightingale
8-Viktor Svedberg / 22-Theo Peckham
33-Kent Simpson (starter)
31-Antti Raanta (backup)
Scratches: D-5-Joe Gleason… LW-15-Wade Brookbank… C/W-23-Joakim Nordstrom (lower-body, minor, day-to-day)… RW-36-Maxim Shalunov….
Power play I: Winchester-Leblanc-Hayes with Morin & Clendening
Power play II: A.Broadhurst-McNeill-T.Broadhurst with Olsen & Mills
PK forwards: Danault-McNeill, Mills-Hayes, Ross-Morin
PK defense: Dahlbeck-Nightingale, Svedberg-Peckham, Olsen
–Martin St. Pierre missed the game for Hamilton with an injury. St. Pierre was injured in his second game of the season, a day after he was named the Bulldogs’ team captain. Officially, St. Pierre is sidelined with a lower-body injury. His return to action could happen as early as this weekend.
–Hamilton’s lone visit to the BMO comes on Tuesday February 4th.
–[updated] Joakim Nordstrom missed the game due to a nagging lower-body injury. Nordstrom was reassigned to Rockford from Chicago following Saturday night’s (10/19) Blackhawks home victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was no corresponding recall made by Chicago. The official word from the IceHogs is that Nordstrom is listed as “day-to-day” and could play as early as Wednesday night in Toronto.
–To defend the 5-on-3 in the third, Dent put Mills-Winchester and Dahlbeck out. Then Hayes with Olsen and Dahlbeck.
–Akim Aliu is currently on a 25-game professional try-out contract with Hamilton. It’s probably not a coincidence that Hamilton’s affiliate is Montreal and the Canadiens GM is Marc Bergevin, who was with the Blackhawks when Aliu was drafted.
–Jeremy Morin extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one shot on goal to 135. Morin was credited with 3 shots on Tuesday.
–Tuesday marked the 2nd multi-point game in Mark McNeill’s 19-game pro career. It was also his first multi-goal game. McNeill notched 2 goals and an assist and was named the game’s second star in Hamilton.
–You see a lot of nearly empty arenas from time to time across the AHL – especially for weekday night games. But there couldn’t have been more than a 1,000 people in Copps Coliseum on Tuesday night. Honestly, they could have played this game at a local VFW and not sold it out.
–Rockford has had some stinkers in Toronto over the years. This year’s Marlies are off to a 4-1 start are allowing 2.4 goals per game. Rockford so far is averaging 3.6 goals against per contest. The IceHogs have scored as many goals, 25, as they’ve surrendered thus far.