Rockford, Ill. - In their second-to-last regular season home game, the Rockford IceHogs put together a wire-to-wire performance to shut the Grand Rapids Griffins out by a 4-0 score on Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Goaltender Mac Carruth made 31 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, and Rockford took advantage of a third-period offensive explosion to move into sole possession of third place in the Central Division. The victory is Rockford's second in as many games while the Griffins lost their fourth straight contest.
Tanner Kero broke the IceHogs record for rookie goals in a season with his 20th tally, while Vince Hinostroza set the new mark for points in a campaign by first year players (48) as he tallied two assists to bring his season totals to 16 goals and 32 assists.
Nick Mattson opened the scoring at 11:17 of the opening frame with his first American Hockey League goal. After receiving a pass from Pierre-Cedric Labrie and wheeling back up the boards, Mark McNeill laid a pass into the path of Mattson, who wired a one-time blast over the glove of Jared Coreau to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.
Tyler Motte and Kero nearly combined to double Rockford’s advantage with 2:30 left in the first period. Motte sped by a Griffins defender before sliding a low effort in on Coreau, who kicked the puck out into the slot. Kero followed up on the chance, but he couldn’t sneak his shot between the right skate of the Grand Rapids netminder and the post.
Kyle Criscuolo almost managed to notch his first professional tally and tie up the match in the closing seconds of the opening period. The Harvard product wheeled around the Hogs cage before stuffing a shot towards the left post that was met by the left pad of Carruth.
The middle stanza went scoreless thanks in large part to the goaltending efforts of Carruth, whose biggest stop came 11 minutes into the second period. Grand Rapids entered the Rockford zone on a three-on-one following a turnover and got the puck to Mark Zengerle in the high slot. Carruth stood tall and got his left arm on the shot, though, to deflect it to the glass and maintain the one-goal lead.
Rockford doubled their lead only 28 seconds into the third period courtesy of the team’s rookie line of Motte, Kero, and Hinostroza. Kero found Hinostroza, who put a spinning shot on net through a screen by Motte. The rebound hopped off the pads of Coreau to a waiting Ville Pokka and he pounded a shot into the empty cage for his 10th goal of the season.
It took just under three minutes for the IceHogs to get their next goal. In four-on-four play, Kyle Baun chipped a nifty pass through the neutral zone to Kero, who tucked a backhand through the pads of Coreau at 3:28 of the third to give Rockford a 3-0 lead.
McNeill got in on the action with a power-play goal 1:02 after the marker by Kero. An outside shot from Pokka kicked right to the team’s leading scorer and he slammed his 23rd of the season under Coreau to extend the advantage to 4-0.
Rockford only allowed eight shots in the final period, but Carruth displayed toughness and grit with a final big save in the last five minutes. Tomas Nosek got in on a shorthanded break and barreled over the Hogs goaltender, who stood his ground to make the stop and preserve his shutout bid.
Rockford went 1-for-5 on the man advantage while shutting down all six Grand Rapids power plays.
Next Home Game: Saturday, April 16 vs. Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m. The first 2,500 fans will receive an IceHogs team photo courtesy of Proforma. In honor of the last regular season home game, it’s Fan Appreciation Night at the BMO! Random fans will be given prizes at every whistle.