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Utica tallies in all three periods to end Hogs hot stretch

Utica, N.Y. – One streak had to come to an end on Saturday night as two of the Western Conference’s hottest teams faced off from the Utica Memorial Auditorium. It was the Utica Comets (41-19-6-1) that escaped with their hot streak in tact with a 4-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs (39-20-5-2).

Utica pushed their winning streak to seven straight games while snapping the IceHogs six game winning streak. Rockford had picked up points in 10 of 11 games prior to Saturday night’s loss (9-1-1-0).

Despite the Hogs outshooting the Comets by a wide margin, 39-23, Utica took advantage of every opportunity they were given and received a solid performance in net from Joe Cannata. The puckstopper blocked 37 of the 39 shots he faced en route to his third win of the season.

Winger Darren Archibald opened the scoring for Utica in the first period with his first of two on the night. Goaltender Antti Raanta came out to play a puck but Archibald stripped it away and buried his 11th of the season at 17:33.

The Comets continued where they left off in the middle frame garnering two more tallies. Playing his former team for the first time, former Hogs defenseman Adam Clendening sprung Archibald on a breakaway just 26 seconds into the second period. Archibald raced in and flipped the puck to the back of the net to extend the Utica lead to 2-0.

Then, less than four minutes later the Comets used a power play to bump the lead up to 3-0. Raanta stopped a Sven Baertschi shot but the puck kicked out to the stick of Cory Conacher and the winger deposited the rebound at 4:07. The goal chased Raanta from the game as he was replaced by Michael Leighton

The Hogs had an answer on the very next shift however. Leighton came in and was tested right away. After denying a chance from point blank, the IceHogs transitioned to the other end where Alex Broadhurst whacked in a loose puck for his second goal in as many games.

Rockford pressed in the final 20 minutes to get back in the game, outshooting the Comets 14-4 in the period, but Utica again took advantage of a turnover. Hunter Shinkaruk forced a turnover right in front of the Hogs’ cage before going upstairs on Leighton to make it a 4-1 game with 10:46 remaining.

In desperation mode, Ted Dent pulled Leighton in favor of the extra attacker and the IceHogs were able to bring the game within a pair. Forward Spencer Abbott stayed hot as he hammered home his 14th goal of the season and seventh since joining Rockford. The 26 year-old now shows 10 points (7g-3a) in 10 games with Rockford.

But it was too little too late as the IceHogs dropped their first game in regulation since March 14, and split the season series with Utica. The Hogs will finish up a brief three game road swing in Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

Next Home Game: Friday, April 3 vs. Grand Rapid Griffins: Face-off is at 7 p.m. It’s Golf Rockford Night at the BMO as the first 1,500 fans into the building will receive an IceHogs “Jeff Cap” thanks to Bud Light. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. for fans 21 and older to enjoy another Blue Flame Lounge pre-game party with live music courtesy of Dan Phelps.