Rockford, Ill. – Following a pair of 6-2 contests against their Central Division opponent, the Rockford IceHogs (18-7-2-3) reverted back to a previous trend of tight games against the Milwaukee Admirals (20-9-1-0) with a 2-1 shootout loss.
The defeat dropped Rockford into a tie for first place in the Central with Milwaukee, as both teams possess a 0.683 winning percentage. Rockford also drops to 2-2-1-2 against their Central Division rivals on the season. Four of the seven contests between the two clubs have resulted in one-goal games.
Frederick Gaudreau emerged the hero for Milwaukee, earning their only goal in regulation and scoring the game-clinching shootout goal for the visitors.
Each team went scoreless during the opening stanza, but both flirted with the crossbar on close scoring opportunities. The Admirals Kevin Fiala wired a wrist shot off the crossbar nearly 14 minutes into the first. With just under 10 seconds to play, Ville Pokka nearly saw his point slapper tipped in, but the puck fluttered over the shoulder of Marek Mazanec and landed on top of the cage.
Milwaukee broke the scoreless deadlock on the power play just 48 seconds into the middle frame. Vinny Saponari found Gaudreau in the high slot with a feed out of the corner, who beat Michael Leighton along the ice for his third goal against Rockford this season.
The IceHogs equalized midway through the second period courtesy of Chris DeSousa’s third tally of the season. Off an offensive zone draw, Marko Dano whipped a centering pass to a wide-open DeSousa on the backdoor, and he slammed the puck home at 9:06.
The final period proved indecisive, as neither team was able to gain the lead. Pierre-Cedric Labrie split the Milwaukee defense two minutes into the third, but his attempt went just wide of the post. Following a hooking penalty to Jeremy Morin, the Admirals looked poised to take the lead with a second power play goal. However, Leighton turned away a tip attempt from Adam Payerl on the doorstep, and maintained the tie to force overtime.
Leighton came up huge again in overtime with the IceHogs down a man. A series of golden scoring opportunities for Milwaukee culminated in a breakaway for Joe Pendenza, but the Rockford netminder stacked his pads to extend the extra session.
Fiala tallied first in the shootout before Gaudreau sealed the win. Garret Ross and Vince Hinostroza each saw their tries turned away by Mazanec.
Leighton stopped 23 shots in the loss while Mazanec turned away 33.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, Dec. 30 vs. Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m. The IceHogs host the Chicago Wolves in yet another Illinois Lottery Cup game. It’s another “Winning Weekday” at the BMO Harris Bank Center. If the IceHogs win, every fan in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next weekday game. Fans can also enjoy $2 beers, sodas, hot dogs, and companion tickets.