The IceHogs won their fifth straight with a shutout over the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday. (Photo by Greg Hamil)
Goalie Antti Niemi knew that even with a three-goal lead in the second period, the Rockford IceHogs were still facing a Norfolk Admirals that could score.
After all, that's exactly what they did on Friday.
But the IceHogs continued to keep the Admirals off the board and won their fifth straight game. With the 4-0 win, Niemi earned his first shutout in North America.
"It's easy to lose your concentration when you have three goals," Niemi said.
But unlike Friday, where the Admirals scored four straight, the IceHogs kept their composure and put 17 shots on goal in the second and another 10 in the third.
"I thought we were better in the second than we were in the first," said coach Bill Peters. "I liked that start, but we learned a lesson from last night. I thought it was a real complete effort tonight."
The IceHogs posted goals at each end of the first frame.
Just 39 seconds into the game, Evan Brophey poked the puck past goalie Mike McKenna with helpers from Jake Dowell and Tim Hambly. Then almost 20 minutes later, J.C. Sawyer doubled the IceHogs score with a blast from the blue line at 19:57. Tim Brent and Pascal Pelletier were credited with assists.
Sawyer is in his second professional season. After spending most of the 2007-08 season in Pensacola of the ECHL, the defenseman made the IceHogs this year and scored his first AHL goal on Friday.
"We obviously weren't the best team, but I got a lot of minutes," Sawyer said of playing in Pensacola. "I know that I can play at this level now."
In the second, Petri Kontiola scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 13:20 with assists from Brent and Jack Skille. In the third, Brent tacked on another tally at 14:17 with helpers from Rob Klinkhammer and Hambly while shorthanded.
Now after seven games, both Rockford goaltenders each have three wins. Niemi finished with 26 saves on Saturday.
"You need good goaltending to win at this level and we're fortunate to have it," Peters said. "That's our foundation and we'll build from it."
McKenna had 39 saves in the losing effort, his first appearance of the 2008-09 season. The IceHogs were 2-for-6 on the power play, improving again on the man advantage to 28.3 percent. The Admirals had seven power plays and finished 1-for-11 on the weekend.
And with the win, the IceHogs remain perfect at home in their first four games.
"You have to win you home games," Peters said. "I like the fact that we had 43 shots. Our penalty kill is getting better and our power play has continued to stay at a high level. We're getting contributions throughout the lineups."
Now the IceHogs turn to face the Chicago Wolves in the Allstate Arena, where they have only won a single game in nine chances. But Peters said he likes the team's chances, coming off of two wins .
"We're a confident team," Peters said. "We've won four straight and we've earned the right to have some confidence and you have to have some confidence to go into that building. And we're excited about the opportunity to play them."
Next Home Game:
The Rockford IceHogs are taking on the Manitoba Moose in the first of two home games against North Division opponents at 7:30 p.m. inside the Rockford MetroCentre. It's Halloween and IceHogs are marking the holiday with Trick or Treating with IceHogs players after the game. Any child under 12 who comes in costume will get $4 off any ticket and will be given a reusable shopping bag after the game to trick or treat with the IceHogs.