Rockford, Ill. – For the second straight game the Rockford IceHogs were able to shut down their opponent. This time it was Scott Darling’s turn as he stopped all 31 Utica Comets chances to help the Hogs to a 3-0 victory in front of a sold out BMO Harris Bank Center on Pink in the Rink Night.
The Hogs picked up their fifth victory in their last six contests to head into the All-Star break on a positive note, and that includes shutouts in four of their last nine games.
Darling’s shutout backed Michael Leighton’s on Thursday, marking the first time that Rockford shutout their opponents in back-to-back games since Ronnie Vogel and Michel Robinson did it on Feb. 8-10, 2006. The shut out also was the IceHogs seventh of the season which is one shy of a franchise record that was set in the 2004-05 campaign when Robinson had seven by himself.
Rockford came out in the first period and tallied the game's first maker with 2:16 remaining in the opening frame as Klas Dahlbeck fired a shot over the shoulder of Jacob Markstrom. With the Comets Brendan Gaunce in the penalty box for two minutes it appeared that Utica was able to successfully clear off the infraction, but the IceHogs won a faceoff and Dahlbeck fired a shot from the point to beat Markstrom to pick up his fourth goal of the season.
The two Western Conference foes returned for the second stanza and it looked like the Comets would have a chance to erase the 1-0 deficit when the Garret Ross took a slashing penalty but it was the home squad who gained the momentum.
Down a skater, Rockford fed off the energy from their penalty kill unit as Pierre-Cedric Labrie picked up a loose puck and raced away from a Utica defender and was all alone on the Markstrom but he was stonewalled. The Hogs again had a chance for a shorthanded tally later on the same infraction as they had a three-on-one rush but once more Markstrom kept the game 1-0. Finally, a few seconds after the Ross minor, Dennis Rasmussen poked a loose puck to Adam Clendening in the defensive zone. Clendening skated with the puck towards the far ice before lofting a pass to the stick of Ross and he banged home his team-leading 14th goal of the season beating Markstrom over the glove with 10:52 in the middle period.
The Hogs later capped off the scoring in the third period when Pierre-Cedric Labrie notched his sixth of the season with 16:08 remaining in the tilt. Labrie booked his third tally in his last five tilts with help from Viktor Svedberg and Clendening.
Darling improved his record to 11-6-2-1 with his second shutout of the season while Markstrom made 36 saves and suffered just his fourth loss of the season.
Next Home Game: Friday, Jan. 30 vs. Chicago. Puck drops at 7 p.m. The IceHogs kick off another Illinois Lottery Cup home-and-home series when they host the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank center. The first 2,500 fans will receive a free IceHogs phone cover, courtesy of BMO Harris Bank.