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Checkers hang on for 3-2 shootout victory over Rockford

Rockford, Ill. - The Rockford IceHogs were only two shots away from a two-game winning streak. Unfortunately, for the second-straight occasion at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the home team had to settle for an extra-time loss. On Tuesday night it was a shootout that was the deciding factor, as the IceHogs fell to the Charlotte Checkers 3-2.

Alex Aleardi grabbed the only goal in the shootout to grant the visiting Checkers the extra point in the first of four meetings between Rockford and Charlotte this season. The post-regulation defeat spoiled a rally attempt by the IceHogs, who erased a 2-0 second period deficit to force overtime.

After getting blanked in their last outing and being held scoreless through the first 35 minutes of regulation on Tuesday, Rockford's offense finally broke through with a couple of gritty efforts around the net. Phillip Danault got the IceHogs on the board late in the middle frame after he capped off a great play by Garret Ross.

Carrying the puck down the left side and facing pressure from a Checkers defender, Ross lowered his head and curled behind the net, jamming the puck against the pad of goalie Drew MacIntyre. The rebound from Ross' wrap-around attempt squirted right to Danault, who fired it home to make it 2-1 at 15:53 of the period, ending a team scoring drought that had extended to 145:52.

A similar group effort from Rockford evened the game halfway through the third period. The forward unit of Matt Carey, Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Hartman combined for a great shift spent in the Charlotte zone; a stretch of pressure that culminated in Hartman's sixth goal of the season. With traffic in front, Hartman stuck with a loose puck, and with his second or third attempt finally beat MacIntyre to tie the game at two.

Fans at the BMO were treated to an impressive display of goaltending between a couple of veterans who combined for 26 years and over 950 games of professional experience. MacIntyre picked up the victory stopping 41-of-43 shots thrown his way, including several acrobatic stops in the third period and overtime, and all three faced in the shootout. On the other side Michael Leighton continued to shine in the Rockford net, turning aside 43 shots for his second-straight extra-time loss. Leighton has stopped an impressive 119 out of the last 122 shots he's faced, but has been tagged with 1-0-2 record during that stretch.

Coming into Tuesday's game, Charlotte was one of two teams on they IceHogs' schedule that they had yet to face. This unfamiliarity was apparent in a methodical opening period that featured two teams trying to feel each other out.

With scoring chances at a premium through the first 10 minutes, the Checkers turned an offensive zone face-off into the first goal of the night. Charlotte forward Brendan Woods started the scoring play by winning the draw clean to defenseman Keegan Lowe on the right point, and finished it by picking up a rebound on the ensuing shot. Woods' eighth tally of the season gave the Checkers a 1-0 lead at 14:29 of the opening period.

Rockford was unable to regain momentum as the second period started, as they found themselves on the penalty kill rather than the offensive. While they successfully killed off Zach Miskovic's double minor for high-sticking, Charlotte extended their lead to a pair soon afterward. With Jared Staal driving to the far post, a Woods drive took a wacky bounce off the end boards after catching a piece of the traffic in front of the net. The bouncing puck found its way to a waiting Staal, who chipped it past Leighton at 10:53.

Both teams came out empty on the power play, with Rockford going 0-for-3 and Charlotte going 0-for-4.

Next Home Game: Friday, Jan. 16, vs. Iowa Wild: Game begins at 7 p.m. Iowa makes its final visit of the season to Rockford as the IceHogs and Wild square off once again at the BMO. Fans can gear up for the rest of winter by taking advantage of the IceHogs winter hat giveaway. The first 1,000 guests 21-and-over will pick up an IceHogs winter hat, compliments of Bud Light. Those over 21 can also enjoy live music, free appetizers and drink specials at the Blues Flame Lounge Pre-Game Party. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.