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ROCKFORD STONEWALLED IN IOWA

Photo by Reese Strickland/Iowa Wild
12/16/2014 12:00 PM -

IceHogs set new franchise record in 5-1 loss to Wild

Des Moines, Iowa - Normally, shots on goal can be a good indicator of which team might win a hockey game. If that is the case, Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena was not a normal hockey game. Despite holding an incredible 59-25 edge in shots, the Rockford IceHogs (18-8-2-1) fell in lopsided fashion to the Iowa Wild (7-17-1-1) by the final score of 5-1.

The 59-shot deluge set a new franchise record for Rockford. It was the highest shot output of any AHL game this season. The IceHogs' 25 shots in the third period tied an AHL franchise mark. Even with the superlatives, it was not enough to solve Iowa netminders John Curry and Johan Gustafsson. 

Curry turned aside 33 of 34 shots faced through the first two periods, until Gustafsson replaced him in the Iowa cage at the start of the third. Coming in off the bench was apparently no problem, as Gustafsson blanked a beleaguered Rockford squad that for all intents and purposes controlled the game. 

While the IceHogs held a 1-0 lead after the first period, the opportunistic Wild turned the game around with a trio of goals in the middle frame, despite the unbalanced shot count. Rockford may have had the volume of chances, but Iowa had the better quality looks in the frame, converting on a power play, then on a couple of odd-man situations to grab a lead they would not relinquish. 

After killing off an early IceHogs man advantage, the Wild found the equalizer at 7:41 when Jonathon Blum flicked a shot from the left circle that evaded Michael Leighton to the far side. 

The home team didn't wait long to strike again, taking the lead when Zack Phillips batted in a cross-ice feed from Jordan Schroeder to cap off a line rush. Iowa's doubled their lead later in the second in similar fashion, when Jason Gregoire squeaked one through Leighton's pads on a two-on-one with Michael Keranen. Both Shroeder and Keranen finished the night with a pair of helpers.

Tuesday marked the first game all year the IceHogs had surrendered three goals in any single period. 

With Rockford throwing everything on net in the third period in hopes of climbing back into the game, the only scoring came from the Wild, who put the game well out of reach with a couple of insurance goals by Matt Dumba and Zach Michell. The victory was Iowa's first over the IceHogs this season after Rockford took each the first three contests, and snaps a streak in which the Hogs won the last eight games between the two squads. 

The only offense the IceHogs could muster came thanks to a guy who had been on the sidelines since mid-November. Playing in his first game since Nov. 15, forward Mark McNeill started the play that led to a Matt Carey goal that opened the scoring halfway through the first period.

McNeill won a puck battle in the defensive zone, knifing a pass to Kyle Cumiskey, who wasted no time finding Carey streaking through the neutral zone. After catching the stretch pass, Carey beat Curry to the blocker side to give Rockford a 1-0 lead at 8:21 of the first. 

Every skater in the lineup for the IceHogs registered a shot on goal in the losing effort. 30 of the 59 shots came from blueliners, with Adam Clendening, T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka all putting up seven. 

Leighton takes his sixth loss on the campaign making 24 saves, as Curry gets credited for the victory. 

Rockford has a few days to regroup now before capping off their six-game road trip with a weekend doubleheader in Oklahoma City against the West-Division leading Barons. Puck drop for game one comes from the Cox Convention Center Saturday night at 7 p.m., before the two teams wrap things up with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Next Home Game: Friday, Dec. 26 vs. Iowa Wild. Puck drops at 7 p.m. The IceHogs return home from a six-game swing on the road to take on the Wild at the BMO. Fans 21-and-over can come out early for another Blues Flame Lounge Pre-Game Party, where they can enjoy free appetizers, live music and drink specials. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.