By Chris Block
Countless forced passes and unforced turnovers resulted in another Rockford IceHogs road loss last night, 3-2 to the Milwaukee Admirals.
The loss drops the IceHogs to 2 games below the .500 mark (18-20-4-2) for the first time this season.
Friday’s defeat extends Rockford’s road losing streak to 7 games (0-5-1-1).
Rockford has now also dropped 11 consecutive division road losses (0-9-1-1) on the season.
The picture is much worse when you look at their last 15 road contests overall. The IceHogs are 2-10-2-1 in those games. They aren’t getting blown away, as their minus-25 goal differential over those last 15 road tilts does prove, but they aren’t playing good enough hockey with near enough consistency. And finding ways to win on the road is not the IceHogs specialty.
Mark McNeill got the IceHogs on the board first on a power play with 29.3 seconds left in the opening frame. McNeill was set up on the backdoor by a backhanded Brandon Mashinter feed through the low slot to give Rockford the 1-0 advantage. McNeill was left alone as two Admirals converged on Mashinter, who was trying to settle a puck near his feet, and it was an easy tap-in for McNeill’s 12 goal of the season and 3rd in his last 8 games.
Milwaukee employed a simple approach – if you apply pressure to an IceHogs puck carrier, chances are he’s going to make a mistake with it. And the IceHogs did, over and over again. Unfortunately, the culprits in the key moments of the game were Rockford’s most skilled players – and one’s you should expect would know better – Adam Clendening, Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri.
While the IceHogs were on a power play early in the second period, Pirri attempted to force ten foot pass through two Milwaukee sticks to Clendening near the offensive blue line. Pirri’s pass, predictably, didn’t make it through. The Admirals’ Colton Sissons intercepted and hustled off on a short-handed breakaway. Sissons was able to stay ahead of the chasing Clendening and got Milwaukee’s first goal of the night by Kent Simpson at the 2:11 mark of the second to tie the game 1-1.
The score would remain that way until 4:34 of the third period when Milwaukee would get a fortunate bounce to gain a 2-1 lead. Austin Watson put a shot on net that Simpson stopped with his blocker but somehow the puck bounced back toward Simpson and he could not make a second stop. The goal was officially given to Watson, with Anthony Bitetto and Zach Budish getting the assists.
The Admirals gave themselves a 2-goal bulge halfway into the third period after both Jared Nightingale and then Brett Skinner failed to clear the IceHogs’ zone. First Nightingale tried to advance the puck up the right wall at his defensive blue line, but that attempt didn’t make it out. The puck came back to Skinner, who tried with a backhanded clearing attempt to go to that same area, but that was picked off by Mathieu Tousignant. Tousignant stayed onside, strode up the right wall and quickly found Mark Van Guilder with the pass across into the right circle. Van Guilder beat Simpson five-hole to give Milwaukee a 3-1 lead with 10:43 to go in regulation.
Rockford got one back while short-handed with 5:01 to go. Brandon Pirri skated into Milwaukee’s zone but his shot went wide. Pirri stationed himself in the slot while Jeremy Morin did some solid board work to maintain possession. Morin eventually slapped a pass to Pirri, who ripped a shot over Marek Mazanec’s glove for his 4th AHL goal of the season to trim Milwaukee’s lead to 3-2. The short-handed goal was the 9th Milwaukee has given up already this season.
Kent Simpson put forth a good effort in seeing his first start in five contests. He stopped 33 of 36 Milwaukee chances. Not coming up with a stop on Sissons short-handed goal really changed the complexion of the game, though Simpson did make some tremendous stops afterwards to keep the IceHogs in the game and give them a chance in the end.
Saturday night, Rockford is expecting a sell-out crowd at the BMO Harris Bank Center for the annual Pink in the Rink night. The ice will be tinted pink and IceHogs players will wear special pink jerseys for the game. The jerseys will be auctioned off during the game as part of the benefit night for breast cancer research and awareness.
–Rockford’s lines, pairs and scratches Friday night in Milwaukee
26-Garret Ross / 23-Joakim Nordstrom / 37-Terry Broadhurst
12-Brandon Mashinter / 27-Brandon Pirri / 28-Mark McNeill
11-Brad Winchester / 14-Drew LeBlanc / 19-Jeremy Morin
25-Alex Broadhurst / 18-Phillip Danault / 20-Pat Mullane
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 2-Adam Clendening
8-Viktor Svedberg / 3-Zach Miskovic
7-Brett Skinner / 6-Jared Nightingale
33-Kent Simpson (starter)
Scratches: LW-15-Wade Brookbank… D-22-Theo Peckham… C/W-24-Byron Froese… LW-32-Philippe Lefebvre…
Injured: C-16-Brad Mills (foot)
–A crowd of 16,860 fans witnessed Friday night’s IceHogs-Admirals contest at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The near capacity crowd was also there for a Dierks Bentley concert performance on the ice after the game.
–Brandon Pirri (lower body) returned to action Friday after missing the past 9 games. Pirri suffered what was believed to be a leg injury on December 30th in a game vs Charlotte. He had been officially considered as “day-to-day” since the injury.
–Pirri’s goal gave him a goal in each of the past 3 games he’s played.