Rockford yields four unanswered goals in 4-2 loss in Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wis. - After leaving victorious in their last two visits to Milwaukee, for a moment it seemed as if the Rockford IceHogs (21-12-3-1) were on their way to making it three straight in Wisconsin. However the Admirals (17-12-2-3) rattled off four straight goals to erase an early deficit and defeat the IceHogs 4-2 on Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first 12 minutes of the game, the Admirals scored once in the first and three more times in the second to turn the Midwest Division affair on its head. The second-period surge was all Milwaukee needed to snap a three game losing streak to the IceHogs, taking the first leg of the home-and-home series.
Nearly nine minutes following Triston Grant's second goal of the night which tied the game at two, Milwaukee's Austin Watson and Zach Budish found the net 45 seconds apart to give the Admirals all the cushion they needed. First Watson converted in the waning seconds of a power play to grab a 3-2 lead, and then a costly IceHogs turnover left Budish with an open look on netminder Scott Darling, a chance which Budish didn't falter on.
The two quick strikes brought an early end to Darling's (19 saves) evening, who was replaced by Michael Leighton (14 saves) for the remainder of the game.
Rockford could not muster any real offense in the third period, as the Admirals' stingy defense only allowed five shots on goal in the third, and 21 overall. Goaltender Marek Mazanec was steady when needed, providing 19 stops for his 10th win of the year.
When a couple of opportunistic plays gave the IceHogs an early edge, a couple defensive hiccups allowed Milwaukee to climb out of their early hole. The comeback started late in the first period when Grant found himself all alone with the puck in front of the Rockford cage, as the rest of the IceHogs were looking to exit the zone. The veteran forward flipped a quick shot over Darling's shoulder to cut the lead to 2-1 at 17:44 of the first.
Grant capped off his two-goal night by shoveling home a rebound to finish a shift where the IceHogs were pinned down in their own end for quite some time. After thwarting a couple different Rockford clearing attempts, Taylor Aronson fired a shot from the point which found Grant's stick via a bounce in front.
Rockford opened the scoring when Phillip Danault cashed in on the game's first power play opportunity. A Kyle Cumiskey centering pass caromed off of intended target Ryan Hartman in the slot, but settled nicely in front of Danault, who beat Mazanec at 9:04 of the first period
Just over three minutes later it was a familiar face scoring in a familiar place to extend the IceHogs lead to a pair. After netting a goal in each of his last two visits to the Bradley Center, T.J. Brennan made it a three-peat when he snapped home a laser over Mazanec's right shoulder. The All-Star defenseman collected a blocked shot off the stick of Ville Pokka and grabbed his eighth tally of the year, in virtually the same spot as his last two goals in the same building.
But the early push was all the offense Rockford could manage in what was their lowest shot output of the season.
Next Home Game: Friday, January 9 vs. Milwaukee Admirals. Game begins at 7 p.m. Rockford begins their 2015 home slate by finishing their home-and-home series at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will take home an IceHogs fleece blanket thanks to OSF. Those 21-and-over can arrive early for another Blues Flame Lounge Pre-Game Party, and enjoy live music, drink specials and free appetizers. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.