Rockford leaves Milwaukee with commanding victory
Milwaukee, Wis. - Early in the season it seemed as though the Rockford IceHogs had their hands full with the Milwaukee Admirals. On Thursday night they just plain manhandled them. The IceHogs (16-5-1-1) turned in a complete 60-minute effort on the road to down the Admirals (12-6-0-2) 4-0 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The IceHogs found the net in all three frames, and goaltender Michael Leighton was sharp when needed, turning aside 19 shots to backstop the victory. The shutout was Leighton's second of the season and number 38 in his AHL career, giving him sole possession of third place on the AHL all-time shutout list, moving ahead of Bobby Perreault (1951-69). The Petrolia, Ontario native needs eight more goose eggs to surpass Johnny Bower's (1945-58) all-time record of 45.
Where Rockford's last couple of games were marred with slow starts, the IceHogs put together a solid opening period in Milwaukee. The visiting team claimed the only goal of the first 20 minutes, when in transition, forward Garret Ross fired a seeing-eye shot that found a way through Admiral goaltender Magnus Hellberg. Ross' seventh of the season at 9:51 was assisted by Phillip Danault and Ville Pokka. Pokka used the assist to extend his point streak to four games (3g-2a).
The other half of Rockford's red-hot defensive duo helped double the IceHogs lead in the early stages of the second. After taking a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, T.J. Brennan spotted Matt Carey off the back post and threaded a perfect pass to set up a one-timer goal just 2:42 into the frame. The helper, along with a goal of his own in the third, stretched Brennan's own scoring streak to four games. The reigning AHL defenseman of the year has points in 13 of his last 15 contests, a span where he has tallied 18 points (4g-14a).
After some clutch penalty killing to keep the score 2-0 heading into the second intermission, the IceHogs went right back to attacking to start the final frame. Once again it only took mere minutes to find the net, with Drew LeBlanc potting his third of the campaign to finish off a 2-on-1 rush at 1:08 of the period. While Hellberg came up with the initial save, LeBlanc anchored himself in the blue paint, knocking home the rebound to put Rockford up by three.
While Leighton saw to it that no insurance was needed, the IceHogs added one more goal at 16:11, when Brennan used some space inside the blue line to uncork a missile that eluded Hellberg up high. Picking up a secondary assist on the goal was Adam Clendening, who made his return after being reassigned from Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the week.
The IceHogs came up empty in their three power play opportunities but relied on their shorthanded unit to keep the game's momentum securely on their side. Rockford was a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, including a key 5-on-3 kill coming in the second period when the Admirals were looking to start a comeback.