By Chris Block
Rockford capped off the best month of its AHL existence on Friday night, though in a 5-4 overtime loss before 3,853 fans at Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
The IceHogs picking up a point in the loss to the Oklahoma City Barons not only extended the team’s streak of consecutive contests earning at least a point to 11 games (9-0-1-1), but it also meant Rockford went unbeaten in regulation over an entire month for the first time since they joined the American Hockey League in 2007.
Rockford held and lost the lead three times on Friday. Bobby Shea and Terry Broadhurst each scored twice for the ‘Hogs. For Shea it was his 2nd and 3rd goals of the season. Terry Broadhurst notched his 12th and 13th tallies.
Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin each extended their personal point streaks in the loss, both assisted on Shea’s second tally that put Rockford ahead 4-3 midway through the third period.
While the loss of Viktor Svedberg to season-ending shoulder surgery, and subsequent acquisition of defenseman Brian Connelly to fill that void occupying the focus going into Friday night’s contest, it was Bobby Shea, playing in his first game back from the Toledo Walleye, who became the story once the game started.
Shea, 23, recalled from Toledo on Wednesday after Zach Miskovic was traded to Iowa alongside the Connelly-Winchester deal, got the IceHogs on the board first.
The Harrison Township, Michigan native, wristed a shot through a lane of sticks and past Oklahoma City goalie Richard Bachman at 6:44 of the first. Shea’s shot appeared to redirect off Barons’ defenseman Brad Hunt’s stick. Shea started the eventual scoring drive in his own end when he pushed the puck up along the left side boards to Drew LeBlanc. Brad Mills then gained the OKC blue line and cut to the middle to get off his wrist shot. Bachman made a chest save on Mills’ chance, but Brad Hunt’s soft clearing attempt up the middle was intercepted by Bobby Shea and he got off a quick shot from the top of the point that caught a favorable tip in front off Hunt’s stick to give the ‘Hogs a 1-0 lead. The goal was unassisted since OKC regained possession after Mills’ shot then turned it over.
Five minutes later, with Phillip Danault in the box for tripping, the IceHogs experienced their first perceived injustice of the night. Jeremy Morin was skating in on Bachman on a partial breakaway but was tripped down to the ice before he could get his shot off. There was no penalty called on the play by referee Pierre Lambert.
Rockford would gain a 2-goal bulge at even strength a couple of minutes later.
The sequence started in the IceHogs’ end when Brett Skinner made nice defensive play just inside the blue line to standup and take the puck away from the Barons’ best skater, Mark Arcobello. The puck then rang around the boards in Rockford’s end to Mark McNeill, who found Terry Broadhurst streaking through the neutral zone. The older Broadhurst brother entered the Barons’ zone one-on-one with Brad Hunt. Broadhurst through Hunt’s legs, which sent the defenseman spinning in the process, and then beat Richard Bachman high over the left glove hand, off the post and into the net to give Rockford a 2-0 lead at 13:39 of the opening frame.
A couple minutes later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was sent off to the box for putting his stick between the skates of Brad Hunt and tripping Hunt, who was trying to force a play in the ‘Hogs end, down.
On the ensuing power play, Oklahoma City trimmed Rockford’s lead.
Mark McNeill got caught staying out too long on the penalty kill. He did clear a puck near his bench about twenty seconds into the kill, but he chose to skate by the bench and stay on. His partner, Joakim Nordstrom, did race off for a change seconds later when the bench recognized the situation. McNeill never got another opportunity to change and was stuck out for what was a 63 second Barons’ power play.
63 seconds only because Mark Arcobello was left alone across the ice atop the left circle. Anton Lander found him when a tired McNeill got caught watching the puck and lost track of the Barons’ most skilled forward. Arcobello’s shot was tipped in front of Jason LaBarbera by Matthew Ford and the redirected puck snuck by the goalie and the near post with 3:16 to go in the first period.
The first period ended with the IceHogs up 2-1. Shots were 11-11.
In the opening seconds of the second period, LaBarbera came up with a big stop on Roman Horak to conserve his team’s lead after Brandon Davidson stepped up from his defense spot and hit Horak with a nice feed.
Seconds later, Mark Arcobello’s line was back in Rockford’s end. Adam Clendening lost his stick behind his own goal line. As Arcobello converged to battle for the loose puck, Clendening, still regaining his stick, reached back and held Arcobello with his right arm. Pierre Lambert caught him and Oklahoma City was sent back on a power play.
And the Barons’ cashed in on this chance too, their 3rd of the game. This power play was a 4-on-3 due to offsetting minors handed out to Jeremy Morin and C.J. Stretch at the end of the first.
55 seconds into the power play, Mark Arcobello beat LaBarbera to the far side over the goalie’s left shoulder to tie the game at 2-2. Arcobello’s first attempt was stopped, but Matthew Ford had a step on McNeill to the loose puck. Ford got the puck back to Arcobello atop the left circle again. Arcobello, wisely, took too steps up into the circle to allow Ford to get in position for a screen or tip before releasing his shot. Ford was in front but it appeared the shot got by LaBarbera untouched. The goal was Arcobello’s 5th in his 7th AHL game of the season.
Brandon Pirri came roaring out on the next shift, trying to answer Arcobello’s tally but Pirri’s shot rung off the cross bar.
Soon after that chance, the IceHogs regained the lead on another fortunate tip off a Baron’s stick in front. Brandon Mashinter, subbing for McNeill on the Broadhurst brothers’ line post penalty kill, skated a puck wide around Oklahoma City’s net and out to Bachman’s left. Mashinter threw a pass into the low slot. The puck came to Terry Broadhurst, whose backhand shot clanked off Bachman’s left pad. The rebound came back to Terry and his second attempt wristed off Oscar Klefbom’s stick blade and by his goalie at 2:24, just 48 seconds after the Barons had tied the game. Alex Broadhurst won the offensive zone faceoff leading into the goal and he picked up an assist as well.
The Hogs’ bench was up in arms at a non-call near the midway point of regulation. Several players and coaches were yelling at referee Pierre Lambert after Garret Ross was cross-checked from behind into the corner end boards by Klefbom. Moments later, Lambert sent Anton Lander off to the box for hooking. This was Rockford’s first power play of the game and it failed to convert.
16 seconds after the Lander minor expired, Oklahoma City tied the game again.
Matt Ford picked up his second goal of the night and 14th of the season after he followed up a Tyler Pitlick drive to the net. LaBarbera poke-checked Pitlick before he could get a shot off but the IceHogs’ netminder had no answer for Ford’s follow up and the game was tied with 9:09 left in the sandwich stanza.
Six minutes into the third, Jeremy Morin took an ill-advised roughing penalty on Steve Pinizzotto after a whistle (more on this below in the notes section) but OKC was unable to pull a third power play goal on this night against the AHL’s worst penalty kill.
Rockford turned in another undisciplined penalty 12 minutes into the third. Clendening was checked along the wall in his end by Will Acton. After he was hit, Clendending swung down and whacked Acton in the back of the leg with his stick. Clendening does that from time to time, but on this occasion he was caught. Luckily for him, and the IceHogs, former Blackhawk Ben Eager negated the power play when he went over and jawed at Clendening as the defenseman skated to the box. Eager, an alternate captain on the Barons, protested in disbelief as he was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct.
50 seconds into the 4-on-4, Bobby Shea beat Richard Bachman with a blast from the right point to give the IceHogs a 4-3 lead. The goal was Shea’s second of the night. Pirri and Morin picked up the helpers to extend their personal point streaks to 8 and 11 games respectively.
The scoring play started when Pirri skated into the Barons’ zone up the right side wall. Pirri stopped along the half boards and had the puck poke checked away. Morin swooped in to maintain possession. While this was going on, Shea had jumped on the ice for Jared Nightingale. Shea took his position at the right point and after Morin and Pirri battled to keep the puck away from a couple of Barons, Pirri sent the puck back to Shea for the one-timer that beat Bachman’s glove and inside the near post with 7:08 to play in regulation.
Ben Eager tied the game 4 minutes later on what was a routine shot that LaBarbera should have stopped. Eager sped up the right side and stopped along the half wall in Rockford’s zone. Unpressured, Eager made off like he was going to pass but snapped a wrist shot at the goal that LaBarbera seemed unprepared for. Eager’s 5th goal of the season (31gms) hit off LaBarbera’s left pad on snuck under the glove with 2:46 to play in the third.
The game went to overtime after a controversial sequence in the final moments of regulation.
LaBarbera made two stops; the first on an Anton Lander shot, then a second with his left pad on Arcobello. After Arcobello’s shot was stopped, the goal light went on and most of the players on the ice stopped playing even though the puck had ventured back out into the high slot. The final four seconds ticked off the clock as everyone looked around wondering what was going on. No time was put back on the clock and the game went to OT.
Overtime didn’t last long.
There was a draw to LaBarbera’s right about 40 seconds in. Joakim Nordstrom won the draw clean. It came back to Jared Nightingale, but the puck drifted off his stick blade. Tyler Pitlick jumped on the loose puck and quickly beat LaBarbera high to the stick side to end the game.
LaBarbera stopped 32 of 37 shots on the night. His counterpart, Richard Bachman, made 32 saves against 36 shots.
Matthew Ford, and 8th round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004, was named the game’s first star. He posted 2 goals and 2 assists in the contest. No IceHogs figured into the three stars.
Terry Broadhurst and Bobby Shea each had two goals and Alex Broadhurst assisted on both of his brothers tallies.
The IceHogs and Barons rematch at Cox Convention Center on Saturday night.
Rockford is 2-0-1-0 on the year versus OKC. Saturday is their final regular season meeting and down the road could look back as a big swing game if the IceHogs can’t come away with a victory.
-Brandon Davidson, an Edmonton Oilers’ prospect and OKC blue liner, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November of 2012. He was back in the Barons’ lineup before the end of last season after successfully undergoing surgery to remove the tumor and then chemotherapy. He’s now determined to be cancer-free.
-The pairing of Brian Connelly with Adam Clendening seems ill-conceived. Their strengths and weaknesses are too alike. But, we’ll have to wait for how things play out after Theo Peckham, presumably, rejoins the lineup now that his 2 game suspension has been served.
-Ted Dent and Mark Osiecki (who runs the defense) were pretty careful with how they used their third pairing on Friday. Brett Skinner and Bobby Shea didn’t see very much ice time. In his first stint earlier this season, Shea showed he’s not afraid to make plays, but he does make a lot of mistakes. Theo Peckham was playing some of his best hockey of the season before the suspension. Its hard to take Shea out after a two-goal night, so maybe Skinner sits on Saturday.
-Watching Friday’s game, you really get the impression Rockford is due for a letdown in the rematch on Saturday. They were lucky in the sense that Friday night was probably the worst game they played in the 11-game run they’re on, and they still came away with a point.
-In the past I haven’t spent too much time analyzing AHL officiating. By and large its more inconsistent than it is anything else. And by that I mean much more inconsistent than what you see at the NHL. This game on Friday night in Oklahoma City was a mix of every complaint you can have about officiating. But it was inconsistent and head scratching for both sides. The Klefbom hit on Ross in the second should have been a penalty.
David Musil was whistled for hooking Brandon Pirri down at the 20:00 mark of the second. Musil hooked Pirri down in the Barons’ zone with twenty seconds or so left in the period. As Pirri went down, his stick came up and clipped Musil in the face. I was surprised the hi-stick went uncalled. And OKC protested this after the horn and again before the start of the third both because they thought Pirri should have gotten a penalty, and because the Hogs got to pull LaBarbera for the extra attacker for the final moments of the third.
In the third, the IceHogs bench was beside itself after Steve Pinizzotto tossed Brian Connelly to his seat as both were pursuing a puck in Rockford’s zone. If you ignored that Connelly had reached out with his left hand and grabbed Pinizzotto’s left arm back as Pinizzotto was closing in on the puck – well, then it probably looked like a bad no-call from an IceHogs perspective. However, in this case, the official had an option to take both Pinizzotto and Connelly or keep his whistle in his pocket and take neither. He chose the latter and I suppose you can say that’s fair enough.
-Pinizzotto was on the Chicago Wolves last year when he was still with the Canucks’ organization so some IceHogs know him well. He’s in that Andrew Shaw mold, only two or three inches taller.
Jeremy Morin took a dumb penalty in the third period in trying to stick up for his buddy, Brandon Pirri.
Pinizzotto aggressively finished a check on Pirri at the OKC blue line six minutes into the third. Pinizzotto’s stick was pitched out in the cross check form and it rode up high on Pirri. This happened about twenty feet from Morin. The play was whistled by the OKC net a few seconds later. There, Pirri and Pinizzotto stood shoulder to shoulder aside Bachman’s net. The two were jawing at each other, no doubt over what had just happened out at the blue line. Anyhow, as this was going on, Morin came skating in and knocked Pinizzotto to the ice. You like the emotion Morin plays with but he has to be smarter and harness that in better ways. The game was tied at the time and OKC was 2 for 3 in the game on the power play, and the IceHogs own the league’s worst penalty kill. Not a good penalty in that situation from a fourth year player who should know better by now.
-Morin wasn’t originally given the assist on Shea’s second goal. It deservedly was added later.
-C.J. Stretch’s mustache is spectacular and completely ridiculous.
-Brandon Pirri, as he has been doing more of lately, made some nice body plays along the walls. Great body placement to shield off and win 50/50 puck battles. He did everything right on most of those but keep his balance after contact.
-A great pace to this game, back and forth. Not really well executed at times, but a fun game to watch, this one.
-The loss means the IceHogs failed to match its AHL franchise best mark for consecutive wins (6). Rockford has won five straight coming into Friday’s game in Oklahoma City. Their last 6 game winning streak came at this exact time last season, Feb 16 – March 1, 2013. The overall franchise mark for consecutive victories is 11, set in 2005-06 when the IceHogs were still apart of the UHL.
Rockford’s franchise unbeaten streak record is 16 games, set in 2007-08 (11/25 – 12/29/07) when the team went 11-0-1-4 during its first season in the American Hockey League.
-Jason LaBarbera set an IceHogs AHL record for consecutive wins by a goalie, with 7. That run ended, obviously, in this game. His 7th came on Tuesday at Iowa. Corey Crawford and Carter Hutton shared the previous record of 6 consecutive wins by a goaltender.
-Rockford went the entire month of February without a regulation loss (9-0-1-1).
They’d never done that before in any month during their AHL run. In Rockford’s final year in the UHL they went 12-0-0-1 in the month of February 2007.
The AHL era IceHogs nearly went unbeaten in regulation for the entire month of December 2007 but lost on Dec 31, 2007 to Milwaukee, 5-3 at the MetroCentre (as it was then named). Rockford went 9-1-1-3 during December of ’07 of its inaugural season in the AHL.
Colin Fraser had two goals for the IceHogs that night and Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots to get the victory over Corey Crawford (22 stops against 26 shots). Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Martin St. Pierre, Michael Blunden and Niklas Hjalmarsson all played in that game for the ‘Hogs. Rockford was without other 2007-08 season regulars that night – Bryan Bickell, Petri Kontiola and Jack Skille.
That inaugural 2007-08 AHL season for the IceHogs also represents the last Rockford team that won a playoff game, losing out to the Chicago Wolves in seven games in the second round of the postseason after beating Houston 4 games to 1 in the opening round. The following two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10) Rockford was swept out of the opening round of the playoffs by Milwaukee (2009) and Texas (2010) and have not seen the postseason since.
-Rockford outscored opponents 48-29 in the month of February (totals exclude shootout deciders). Rockford’s 9 victories included 1 overtime win and 8 inside regulation.
-After Friday night’s games, Rockford is sitting fairly comfortably in a playoff position for the time being. The IceHogs hold in 6th place in the Western Conference with 66 points. The two teams that trail them, though, Rochester (63pts) and Milwaukee (60pts), have 4 and 3 games in hand on the IceHogs respectively. Oklahoma City sits in the 10th spot (55pts) and also have 3 more games left to play than Rockford does.
-Those teams will catch up to the IceHogs in the games played column in a couple of weeks. Beginning Saturday night, in the first 20 days of March, Rockford will play 5 games. Following a home date March 8th with Milwaukee, the IceHogs will play one game (Fri 3/14 at Milwaukee) over a twelve day stretch.
–Rockford IceHogs lines, pairs, specials & scratches Friday in OKC
96-Pierre-Marc Bouchard / 27-Brandon Pirri / 19-Jeremy Morin
12-Brandon Mashinter / 23-Joakim Nordstrom / 26-Garret Ross
37-Terry Broadhurst / 25-Alex Broadhurst / 28-Mark McNeill
18-Phillip Danault / 14-Drew LeBlanc / 16-Brad Mills
11-Brian Connelly / 2-Adam Clendening
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 6-Jared Nightingale
7-Brett Skinner / 9-Bobby Shea
1-Jason LaBarbera (starter)
Scratches: D-8-Viktor Svedberg (shoulder, out for season)…. D/W-15-Wade Brookbank (healthy)…. D-22-Theo Peckham (2nd of 2 game suspension)….
Power play I: Ross-Pirri-Morin w/ Bouchard & Clendening
Power play II: Mashinter-A.Broadhurst-McNeill w/Nordstrom & Connelly
PK forwards: Nordstrom-Mills, Danault-McNeill, Pirri-Ross
PK defense: Dahlbeck-Nightingale, Connelly-Clendening
Oklahoma City Barons lines and defensive pairings versus Rockford on 2/28/14
15-Roman Horak / 26-Mark Arcobello / 13-Steve Pinizzotto
10-Curtis Hamilton / 16-Anton Lander / 9-Tyler Pitlick
19-Austin Fyten / 20-C.J. Stretch / 23-Jack Combs
39-Ben Eager / 14-Will Acton / 11-Matthew Ford
3-Brandon Davidson / 29-Brad Hunt
40-Martin Gernat / 27-Taylor Fedun
8-Oscar Klefbom / 6-David Musil
30-Richard Bachman (starter)