The IceHogs are now 4-3 in the shootout after starting the season 3-0. (Photo by Greg Hamil)
Houston has earned at least one point in all 11 division games this season
Rockford, Ill.- An early start by the Rockford IceHogs was matched by a strong finish from the Houston Aeros. Three third period goals and two in the shootout earned the Aeros a win over the IceHogs at the Rockford MetroCentre on Friday night.
Three goals and a Tim Brent shootout score was not enough for the Hogs to come away with the two points. Houston came on strong in the third period after being down 2-0 and carried the momentum into the overtime and shootout. Points are becoming increasingly important in the West Division as six teams are within three points of the lead.
"I've only missed the playoffs one time in my life," Rockford captain Tim Brent said. "And it's games like this that you remember on April 12 when you're packing your bags. We have to realize that now and put an end to giving points away."
Houston's Marco Rosa won the game with a fifth-round score in the shootout breaking a 1-1 tie. Late in the third period, Rosa tied the game at three a piece as he sent a shot past the pads of Rockford goaltender Corey Crawford after a Jesse Schultz breakaway attempt was denied. The goal was scored at 13:31 and was also assisted from Maxim Noreau.
Earlier in the third period, Houston goals by Jason Ryznar and Brandon Rogers threatened the IceHogs with a third frame tie. The goals came at 5:03 and 6:43 respectively and knotted the game up at 2-2. Moments later, Petri Kontiola briefly broke the tie with a marker of his own at 7:16. Mike Radja and Pete MacArthur were credited with the helpers.
"They had to bring some urgency that we didn't match because we were up by two," Brent said. "They had a little bit of hope in the back of their mind. If we get another one there and put them in the coffin, it's probably a different story."
In the first period, Hogs' forward Evan Brophey put Rockford ahead when he slapped in a rebound off of a Niklas Hjalmarsson drive at 3:45 past Nolan Schaefer . Hjalmarsson and Mike Blunden were credited with the assists.
Hogs' forward Mike Radja would add a second goal in the first period to give the IceHogs a 2-0 advantage going into the second.
Coming into tonight's game, Radja led the AHL in shooting percentage, scoring six goals off of 19 shots taken this season. The Yorkville, Illinois native added to his league-leading shooting percentage, with a goal on four shots. The power-play marker was helped by Petri Kontiola and Hjalmarsson at 11:10 in the first period. It was Hjalmarsson's first-multi-point game of the season.
Corey Crawford finished with 20 saves and is now 5-0-1 in his last six starts. It was the first time since Nov. 22 that Crawford had allowed more than two goals. Nolan Schaefer finished with 27 saves in his first start since Dec. 2.
Rockford was 1-for-4 on the power play, while fending off three Houston power plays.
Next Home Game: Saturday, Dec. 20 vs. Houston Aeros. Another West Division showdown starts at 7:05 p.m. The back end of back-to-back contests against the Aeros in Rockford happens on Saturday. The first 2,000 fans to the game will receive an IceHogs Sno-Globe courtesy of the Rockford Park District, BOB FM and WTVO TV.