Bryan Bickell earned the first star tonight with a two-goal, two-assist performance that included a +5 rating. (Photo by Greg Hamil)
Versteeg and Bickell both +5 on the game
Rockford, Ill.- What a night for the Rockford IceHogs.
The Hogs clinched a playoff spot thanks to a 7-1 win over the San Antonio Rampage at the Rockford MetroCentre. It is the team's biggest goal differential this season and the second time the Hogs have beaten the Rampage, a potential playoff opponent, by more than five goals.
The Hogs also donned their special Captain Hammy Hook Charity Jerseys and improved to 8-1-0-0 on Charity Jersey Auction Night presented by Saturn of Rockford.
Defenseman Ryan Stokes scored first for the Hogs at 5:12 in the first period with a blast from the top of the face-off circle. Petri Kontiola and Bryan Bickell recorded the assists.
Then just 20 seconds later, Bickell doubled the Hogs' score with a nifty move around goaltender Al Montoya. Kris Versteeg and Tyson Marsh had the helpers.
And Kontiola made the score 3-0 when he picked up a loose puck in front of an unguarded net and stuck it through at 9:48 in the first. Versteeg and Niklas Hjalmarsson had the assists.
The goal pushed Montoya out of the game. He made four saves and was replaced by Josh Tordjman, who finished with 25 saves and gave up four more goals.
Mike Zigomanis put in the Rampage's only goal at 4:13 in the second, a power play marker, with assists from Enver Lisin and Matt Murley.
But Bickell responded with his second goal of the night and 19th of the season, a power play marker, at 9:50 in the middle frame. Colin Fraser and Jake Dowell got into the action with the helpers.
And the hits kept coming. Evan Brophey scored his fourth goal of the season at 19:46 in the second to make the score 5-1. Hjalmarsson and Versteeg added assists.
And Versteeg completed his four-point night with a lamp-lighter at 7:23 in the third period. In an incredibly unselfish move, Bickell gave up a shot at a hat trick when he dished to Versteeg on a breakaway to give the winger a shot at the net. And Justin Fletcher made the score 7-1 with his fifth goal of the season just 34 second later with assists from Fraser and Gavin Morgan.
It was an interesting night for the Hogs because none of the seven goals came from their top offensive line. It was also the first four-point night of the season for both Bickell and Versteeg.
Eleven different Hogs scored in the game. Versteeg and Bickell both finished +5 and Marsh was on the ice for four of the even-strength goals.
Following tonight’s game, fans had an opportunity to bid on the authentic game-worn jerseys worn in tonight’s contest. All proceeds will be donated to the IceHogs Charitable Foundation which will benefit several local nonprofit organizations in the Rockford community including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Boy and Girls Club of Rockford, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Jr. IceHogs and more.
The IceHogs and Rampage continue to jostle for playoff positioning in the AHL’s West Division. But with the win, Rockford shifts focus to gaining home-ice advantage. The magic number for that position is now six over the Houston Aeros, san Antonio Rampage and Milwaukee Admirals, who beat the Aeros tonight to move into a three-way tie for third in the West.
The game is the final of six in Rockford’s season series with the Rampage. Rockford is 4-0-0-2 against the West Division rivals including 2-0-0-1 at the MetroCentre.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, April 9 vs. Peoria Rivermen. Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m. Rockford begins the final week of the 2007-08 regular season with the final visit of the season from Peoria. Wednesday’s game is presented by Crown Royal.