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Photo by Jim Orlando

Rockford erases three-goal deficit after shaky start

Grand Rapids, Mich.- It’s not very often that a team overcomes a five-goal first period. On Wednesday night the Rockford IceHogs nearly did just that.  After giving up five first period goals and trailing 5-2 after 20 minutes, the IceHogs fought back and forced a shootout in which they would eventually lose 6-5 to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

 In a game where 11 overall goals were scored, it’s hard to believe that a goaltender stood out.  Rockford goalie Corey Crawford relieved Antti Niemi after the Hogs trailed 4-2 and played brilliantly, stopping 37 of 38 Grand Rapids shots he faced to help lead Rockford back from a three goal hole after the first period.
 Down by a goal late in the third, the IceHogs pulled Crawford in favor of the extra attacker.  After Petri Kontiola won the face-off deep in the Griffins zone, Pascal Pelletier sent a centering feed in front of the Grand Rapids goal and rookie winger Peter

MacArthur tipped his fourth goal of the season past Daniel Larsson tying the game with just 1:20 left in regulation.
 After a scoreless overtime, the Griffins outscored the IceHogs 3-2 in six rounds of shootout hockey.  Kontiola and Rob Klinkhammer tallied for Rockford in the extra session while Evan McGrath and Ville Leino twice, including the game winner, scored for the Griffins.

Any thought of a goaltending battle in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night was quickly thrown out the window.  The IceHogs and Griffins combined to score seven goals in the first period and unfortunately for Rockford, five of them were potted by Grand Rapids.

The Griffins began the barrage just 1:32 into the game when winger Justin Abdelkader knocked a Leino pass past Anti Niemi for his 11th goal of the season.  Then at 2:39 Francis Pare made it 2-0 when he completed a two-on-one breakaway with Francis Lemieux for his 11th marker as well.

Rockford stormed back with a couple of quick strike goals, tying the game at two.  Winger Jack Skille picked up a Griffins turnover at 6:56 and rifled his 13th goal of the season past Daniel Larsson to cut the deficit in half.

Pelletier, coming off his second hat trick of the season on Saturday, tied the game at 8:47 when he fired his team-leading 18th goal of the campaign in off of helpers from Danny Groulx and Andrew Archer.

The tied game was short lived as just eight seconds later Aaron Gagnon put Grand Rapids right back on top. Off the ensuing face-off following Rockford’s goal, Gagnon picked up a Darren Haydar pass and fired it under Niemi’s arm for his fourth goal. 

Just over a minute later Logan Pyett extended the Griffins lead back to two when his blast from the point found the top corner over Niemi at 10:11, chasing the IceHogs goaltender from the game.

A power-play goal from Leino pushed the Griffins to 5-2 heading into the first intermission as he picked a corner over Corey Crawford for his ninth lamp lighter of the season.

Klinkhammer made it a 5-3 game early in the second period.  The Hogs winger picked off an errant Griffins pass in front of Larsson and beat him for his ninth goal of the season at 1:16.  The goal extended Klinkhammer’s goal scoring streak to four straight games, matching an IceHogs team season high.

Jake Dowell made the overtime possible with his first goal of the season while the IceHogs skated shorthanded.  Dowell stripped a puck in the Rockford zone and deeked out Larsson at 7:08 of the third making it 5-4.  The goal was Rockford’s third unassisted goal of the game.

The Hogs were outshot overall 46-41 in the contest and Larsson got the shootout win after making 36 saves.

Friday, Jan. 9 vs. Chicago Wolves.  The rivalry resumes at 7:30 p.m. Another meeting between the IceHogs and Wolves at the MetroCentre.  The game is the fourth of five on the season in Rockford eighth of ten between the rivals.  The first 2,000 fans to the game will pick up a set of 2008-09 Rockford IceHogs player cards courtesy of ComEd.