The Rockford IceHogs had a busy week to enter the new year, and came out with only one win, but lots of precious points. A big addition in the crease beefed up the roster, as the ‘Hogs front office had a relatively easy week.
Friday, January 3rd vs. Iowa Wild
The IceHogs opened up 2014 with a divisional match-up against the Wild, who have had a close season series so far. Iowa scored the only goal of the first period, on a late power-play, giving the visitors the 1-0 lead heading into the intermission. Rockford battled back with two straight goals, the first from Joakim Nordstrom, and the go-ahead marker coming off the stick of Alex Broadhurst on the man-advantage. Less than one minute after Rockford took the lead, the Wild snatched it away, scoring the tying goal with 13 minutes remaining in the third period. Although both teams got some good looks to end regulation, no one else would score, and after a fruitless overtime period, it was off to the shootout. Nordstrom was the only IceHog to score in the shootout, and Carson McMillan sealed the deal, as Iowa took a 3-2 win. Mac Carruth stopped 22 of 24 in the losing effort, while Adam Clendening picked up Third Star honors with 2 assists and four shots.
Saturday, January 4th vs. Grand Rapids Griffins
The ‘Hogs welcomed their second visitor in as many nights, as the Griffins looked to extend a 5-1 lead in the season series. Nordstrom opened the scoring just four minutes after puck drop, and widened the lead with a penalty-shot goal early in the second period. Jeremy Morin scored the game-winner just 3:49 into the middle frame, as the Griffins put up a valiant two-goal push back before a Garret Ross empty-net goal iced it. Jason LaBarbera earned his first win as an IceHog in his first start, and Nordstrom and Morin both cracked the Three Stars with a combined four points. The Hogs won their first game against the Griffins since October 19th, in the first meeting of the season.
Sunday, January 5th @ Chicago Wolves
Rockford completed a three-day, three-game weekend with a trip down the road to visit the rival Chicago Wolves. Both teams traded power-play goals with less than two minutes left in the first period, but ended 20 minutes at square one. Pat Mullane got his long-awaited first goal of the season early in the second, but Chicago snatched the lead with two goals, seven seconds apart. It was looking bleak with time winding down in the third period, before Mark McNeill scored with just 31 seconds left to send the game to extra time. In the Piggies’ second shootout of the weekend, Garret Ross was the only player to find the net, as the ‘Hogs dropped another shootout decision. LaBarbera made 33 saves on 36 shots as he dropped to 1-0-1, and earned the game’s First Star honor for back-stopping Rockford to a single point.
Wednesday, January 8th @ Grand Rapids Griffins
Rockford finished off the week with another meeting against the Griffins, this time taking place at the Van Andel Arena in Michigan. Drew LeBlanc opened the scoring for Rockford for the third game in a row, but three unanswered Griffins goals (two on the power-play) put them in a two-goal hole entering the final 20:00. Adam Clendening scored short-handed to pull Rockford to within one, but a Riley Sheahan power-play goal with 30 seconds remaining dashed hope for a comeback. LaBarbera stopped 36 pucks in his third consecutive start, and now holds a 1-1-1 record with Rockford. The ‘Hogs 16 PIMs were filled with excitement, as four goals (one short-handed, three power-play) were scored with an IceHog in the box.
January 4th was the only day of action by IceHogs management, as Jason LaBarbera was sent down by the Chicago Blackhawks, after Corey Crawford returned to full health. Mac Carruth was loaned back to the Toledo Walleye, with whom he started the season with, so LaBarbera and Kent Simpson look to be the ‘Hogs goaltending tandem, for now. ‘Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin‘s season is over, so Antti Raanta will be staying with the NHL club long-term, and could be there for seasons ahead.
The ‘Hogs have three home games in Week 14, opening up the pivotal home-stand with a Friday/Saturday doubleheader against the Lake Erie Monsters, before welcoming the Abbotsford Heat to town on Wednesday.
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