By Chris Block
Playing without four of the team’s top regulars, including their leading scorer (Mark McNeill) and team captain (Joakim Nordstrom), the Rockford IceHogs returned to action Friday night with the AHL West’s last-placed Iowa Wild visiting northern Illinois.
The IceHogs saw their roster stripped of last year’s leading scorer in defenseman Adam Clendening, who made his NHL debut for the Blackhawks in Calgary on Thursday night, notching his first NHL goal in the contest. Then, after that game, the IceHogs’ parent club recalled center Phillip Danault, who will now also be making his NHL debut in Edmonton on Saturday.
Danault and Clendening joined IceHogs’ captain Joakim Nordstrom, who was recalled by the ‘Hawks last Saturday, the same day McNeill limped off the ice at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee after blocking a shot off his knee.
Yet without four of their best players, the IceHogs found a way to pickup two points against Iowa on Friday. Ryan Hartman scored twice, and left winger Ryan Schnell posted a ‘Gordie Howe’ hat-trick in Rockford’s 4-3 come-from-behind OT victory over the Wild.
Hartman snapped a personal 9-game pointless streak before a crowd of 3,130 at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. Hartman’s 3rd goal of the season tied the game with 11 minutes to go in the third, following up a Schnell shot-pass. Then Hartman found a rebound 3 minutes into OT after a T.J. Brennan wrap-around chance to seal the extra point.
“They were both rebounds, so you can’t credit me for all those,” Hartman said of his 2-goal night. “Schneller had a great shot. It was an extended pass. He did that on purpose, it’s not an accident.”
The IceHogs outshot Iowa 41-25 in the game, but the sixteen shot discrepancy hardly tells the story of what was largely a sloppily played game. The home team could have had 50-60 shots if it weren’t for the errant passing that plagued the team all night. Rockford’s puck management and passing was poor most of the evening. Iowa capitalized on a few Rockford breakdowns, but a better team would have put the IceHogs in a deeper hole.
“It wasn’t that great of a game, both ways,” said IceHogs coach Ted Dent. “It was sloppy. You know, we won the game. We got two points. We did enough in the 3rd period to get it done. But, overall, we were just average.”
Rockford needed someone to step up with so many players out of the lineup. The line of Dennis Rasmussen, centering Matt Carey and Hartman really got their team going in the second frame – establishing the some of the best pressure and chances the IceHogs would get that period. But it was the fourth line made the biggest impact.
AHL signing, and Cary, IL native, Ryan Schnell scored 3:32 into the middle period to tie the game. Then, midway through the period Schnell dropped the gloves and stood toe-to-toe with respected fighter Joel Rechlicz in a spirited, minute long bout that ignited the crowd, and both benches. Schnell would later assist on Hartman’s game-tying goal, completing the stat-line feat that honors Red Wings’ legend Gordie Howe.
“It was just one of those games where good things happen,” Schnell said after his Goal-Assist-Fight night. “I wasn’t over-thinking anything.”
Iowa got the jump on Rockford early just after Cody Bass went to the box in the game’s second minute for interference, when Bass checked Brett Sutter down from behind inside the Wild zone.
Off the ensuing draw to Scott Darling’s left, the puck bounced over to Michael Keranen, who then slipped a pass by Stephen Johns over to Tyler Graovac for an easy tap-in. Graovac’s 5th of the year gave the Wild a 1-0 lead 1:37 into the contest.
“It was a fifty-fifty puck off the face off,” said Dent. “Their guy came up with it at the net. Scott didn’t have much chance on that.”
Ryan Hartman took a tripping penalty forty seconds later, but the IceHogs’ penalty killers were able to keep Iowa in check on this man advantage.
Rockford later got its first power play chance when Keranen tackled Hartman in front of the IceHogs’ bench midway through the first. The ‘Hogs first power play unit had good movement, the second did not, and neither could register a shot on net during the two minute power play. It would wind up being the IceHogs only power play on the night.
After twenty minutes, Rockford trailed 1-0, yet had a 16-7 advantage in shots. But that discrepancy was hardly a true representation of the play.
Ryan Schnell drew Rockford even at 3:32 when the 25-year old AHL signing’s wrister beat Johan Gustafsson. Alex Broadhurst and Pierre-Cedric Labrie picked up assists on Schnell’s first goal as an IceHog.
“That lane was there and I took it,” Schnell described. “I saw a little bit of a screen from there defenseman and our guys and I just wanted to put it on net. Luckily it went in.”
Ten minutes later Kyle Cumiskey, in his return after missing a couple weeks with a concussion, turned a puck over from deep in his own end. It wound up on defenseman Justin Falk’s stick. He skated down the left side and snuck a shot in behind Darling at 13:57.
Rockford responded 43 seconds later when Viktor Svedberg‘s shot from the left point through traffic got by a screened Gustafsson.
But just 22 seconds after Rockford tied the game for the second time, Iowa answered.
Stephane Veilleux sped into Rockford’s end and put a shot on that Darling kicked away with his left pad. Unfortunately for the IceHogs, Kurtis Gabriel beat Teuvo Teravainen to the rebound and gave Iowa its third lead of the game.
The IceHogs’ penalty kill had to hold the team up again as Ville Pokka and Stephen Johns each took minors that had Rockford short-handed in four of the initial seven minutes of the third.
Then, after a couple breakdowns in the defensive zone that Iowa could convert into goals of their own, Rockford again tied the game.
Schnell skated a puck over the blue line and ripped a shot from off the left wall. Gustafsson kicked Schnell’s attempt back out, serving up a juicy rebound for Hartman, who had nothing but net to shoot at. Hartman’s 3rd of the year tied the game at 8:52 of the third.
The game went to overtime, which the IceHogs dominated.
It ended when T.J. Brennan stepped up in the zone and carried the puck down the right side and around Gustafsson’s cage. Brennan delayed his wrap-around, as the Wild netminder hurried to his post. Brennan flicked a backhander that somehow rolled back out to Hartman near the opposite post, and Hartman easily netted the game-winner.
“I kind of lost track where it was,” Hartman noted, in describing the overtime-winner. “I heard it come off the pad and it came right to my stick.”
Scott Darling stopped 22 of 25 shots to earn his 6th victory. Hartman led the team with 7 shots on the night. Johns and Teravainen each posted four shots. Alex Broadhurst and Brandon Mashinter were the only ‘Hogs to not be credited with a shot.
Rockford improves to 12-4-0-1 on the season. Three of their losses have come versus the Milwaukee Admirals, who are visiting Rockford again on Saturday. The Admirals defeated the Chicago Wolves in overtime, 3-2 in Milwaukee on Friday night.
The IceHogs will complete a 3-in-3 on Sunday when they travel down I-90 to Rosemont, where they’ll faceoff with the Chicago Wolves at 4pm.
–Rockford’s lines, pairs, scratches & specials Friday vs Iowa
11-Peter Regin / 21-Teuvo Teravainen / 53-Brandon Mashinter
26-Garret Ross / 14-Drew LeBlanc / 16-Cody Bass
27-Matt Carey / 12-Dennis Rasmussen / 24-Ryan Hartman
38-Ryan Schnell / 25-Alex Broadhurst / 22-Pierre-Cedric Labrie
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 15-Kyle Cumiskey
7-T.J. Brennan / 29-Ville Pokka
8-Viktor Svedberg / 4-Stephen Johns
35-Mac Carruth (backup)
Scratches: D-3-Zach Miskovic…
Injuries: RW-28-Mark McNeill (knee)…. G-49-Michael Leighton (upper body, funzies)….
Power play I: Regin-Teravainen-Mashinter w/ Pokka & Brennan
Power play II: Ross-Rasmussen-Hartman w/ Dahlbeck & Cumiskey
PK forwards: (various) Rasmussen-Bass, Ross-Carey, Labrie-Regin, Mashinter
PK defense: Brennan-Pokka, Dahlbeck-Johns, Svedberg, Cumiskey
–Ted Dent said he isn’t sure how Michael Leighton’s current “upper body” injury occurred. The word going around is it was an off-ice accident that took place during a player’s day outing either on 11/9 or 11/10.
–Dent tinkered with his top two lines in the third period, down a goal. Rasmussen centered one line with Ross and Teravainen on his wings. Regin then centered Mashinter and Hartman.
—Ryan Hartman met with a young girl outside the IceHogs’ locker room after the game. The girl was struck in the arm by a puck that flew into the stands off Hartman’s stick during the game. Her arm was bruised but she appeared to be fine and was excited to meet Hartman.
—Ryan Schnell, whose forehead was bruised and swelling after the game, on fighting Joel Rechlicz:
“I fought him before when I was in Wilkes-Barre, and I know him pretty well off the ice too. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into. I had tried to grab him earlier in the game after they scored right away. But I understand the role he plays, its similar to mine. I wouldn’t have gone and fought either, if we were up by a goal. Those things are just timing. He’s one of the top fighters in this league, and I have a lot of respect for him. I am sure he feels the same way towards me. But, he’s a guy who doesn’t stop, so it’s definitely a battle.”
Iowa Wild lineup on Friday in Rockford
29-Marc Hagel / 18-Zack Mitchell / 4-Tyler Graovac
36-Michael Keranen / 51-Zack Phillips / 19-Stephane Veilleux
10-Jordan Schroeder / 27-Brett Sutter / 17-Brett Bulmer
22-Joel Rechlicz / 21-Brady Brassart / 39-Kurtis Gabriel
44-Justin Falk / 7-Jonathon Blum
25-Danny Syvret / 5-Christian Folin
2-Guillaume Gelinas / 24-Alex Gudbranson
37-Josh Harding (backup)