Rockford, Il. - Two goaltenders with over 1,000 professional games between them put their experience on display in front of a sold-out crowd at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday night. The Charlotte Checkers outlasted the Rockford IceHogs in a shootout 2-1, snapping the home squad’s three-game winning streak.
The game appeared destined for overtime and a shootout from early on as Michael Leighton and Drew MacIntyre exchanged stops on either end of the ice. Leighton finished with 28 saves on 29 shots while MacIntyre stopped 36-of-37.
The goalies kept the game scoreless for over 50 minutes before the Checkers finally broke the deadlock. Phil Di Giuseppe jumped on a turnover in the IceHogs defensive zone and fed Derek Ryan in the slot. Ryan beat Leighton between the legs for his fifth goal of the season at 13:48 of the third period.
The IceHogs answered on their ninth power play chance of the night. With Leighton on the bench in favor of the extra attacker and Rasmus Rissanen in the penalty box for high-sticking, Ville Pokka set up Jeremy Morin for a one-time shot. Ryan Hartman deflected the puck to the back of the net from the slot with 1:28 remaining to force overtime.
The bounces didn’t go the IceHogs way in the skills competition. Marko Dano rang his shot off the crossbar, and T.J. Hensick beat Leighton under the glove to earn a 1-0 advantage. Ross ran over MacIntyre on his attempt, pushing the puck wide, but Sergey Tolchinsky hit the post to give Rockford brief life. Morin couldn’t beat MacIntyre along the ice on the forehand, though, and Charlotte earned their fifth victory of the season.
The teams traded several power play chances in the first period, with Rockford gaining the man advantage four times. Charlotte went on the power play three times, but neither team capitalized on their opportunities.
Dennis Rasmussen earned the first chance of the game under 30 seconds in, stripping a Charlotte defender of the puck and pumping a shot on MacIntyre that was batted away. Garret Ross nearly put the IceHogs on the board on a partial breakaway, but Rissanen took a holding penalty to prevent the goal.
Play opened up in the middle frame, with Rockford tallying 18 shots to Charlotte’s 10 and each team remaining perfect shorthanded. With just over 13 minutes to play in the period, the teams exchanged chances at opposing ends of the ice. First, Vince Hinostroza wired a shot on MacIntyre that sat in the blue paint, but the Checkers cleared the puck just before Dano could reach it. Charlotte followed with an odd-man rush, only to see Leighton hold strong against his left post and cover the puck.
The IceHogs picked up momentum midway through the period when Dennis Robertson flattened Di Giuseppe at the defensive blue line. Kyle Baun followed the hit with a saucer pass to Nolan Valleau, who deked to his forehand but couldn’t force the puck past the outstretched right leg of MacIntyre.
The goaltenders continued to exchange spectacular saves as the period wore down. Leighton made a superb stop on Zach Boychuk on a 2-on-1 chance with his left arm at 17:11. MacIntyre countered with an arm save on his own, robbing Mark McNeill on a shorthanded bid moments later.
Charlotte nearly got on the scoreboard seconds in to third period. Boychuk walked in all alone on Leighton, who knocked away the backhand effort to keep Rockford even.
After the end of a bench minor to the Checkers for too many men, Rasmussen nearly buried a chance into an empty net. The puck wouldn’t settle, though, and MacIntyre got across the crease to keep it out. Baun attempted a follow-up effort, but found himself similarly denied by the goaltender’s left pad.
Rockford dominated the overtime period, nearly scoring on three separate occasions. Rasmussen went on a 2-on-1 break with Morin, feeding the winger for a blast, but MacIntyre took away the top half of the cage with his shoulder. Morin nearly ended the game again moments later, receiving a feed from Ville Pokka and wiring the puck off the goaltender’s mask. Dano and Hinostroza scrambled to try to win the game before the shootout, only to see MacIntyre sprawl out and cover the puck with 5.6 seconds to play before either IceHog could poke home the rebound.
The IceHogs finished 1-for-8 on the power play while the Checkers went 0-for-5.
Next Home Game: Friday, Oct. 30 vs. Iowa Wild at 7 p.m. The IceHogs welcome the Wild to the BMO Harris Bank Center for the second time in two weeks. Halloween is taking over the arena! Fans are encouraged to wear their costumes to the game. The team will host a Trick-or-Treat event, where players will give out candy to fans. The first 500 kids (14 and under) receive a trick-or-treat bag and toothbrush compliments of Dr. Zak's Tooth Fairy Castle.