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Nordstrom's game-winning goal gives Rockford big win in Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wis. - It is safe to say that the Rockford IceHogs are happy to have their captain back. After spending the last two months in the NHL, Joakim Nordstrom returned in a big way, scoring the third-period game-winning goal to give the IceHogs (27-16-4-2) a momentous 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Admirals (28-14-3-4) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Friday night.

Wearing a Rockford uniform for the first time since Dec. 13, Nordstrom broke open a 1-1 stalemate on the power play, helping the IceHogs snap a four-game losing streak to the Admirals. Finishing a string of three straight games against Milwaukee, Rockford now sits three points behind the Admirals for the Midwest Division lead.

The go-ahead goal came with the help of another IceHog who was making his return from a stint with the Chicago Blackhawks. With Rockford set up in formation as Milwaukee's Austin Watson sat for tripping, Teuvo Teravainen made a pinpoint centering pass to Nordstrom in the slot, who beat Marek Mazanec to the glove side at 4:07 of the third period. The power play goal was Nordstrom's team-leading fifth of the season, despite Friday being only his 18th game.

Defenseman Ville Pokka and Teravainen recorded assists on the goal, as the latter was playing in his first game with Rockford since December after being reassigned from the Blackhawks on Thursday night. The helper was the rookie's ninth point with the extra man this season, the most from any IceHogs skater.

With the 2-1 lead intact, the task fell on Rockford goaltender Scott Darling to maintain it. Darling did just that, as the big netminder was steady down the stretch, even when his team struggled to get out of their own end. The Lemont, Ill. native picked up his 12th win of the season, stopping 23 of 24 shots.

On the heels of picking up a pair of wins against the IceHogs last weekend, Mazanec suffered the loss on Friday, making 31 saves in a game that Rockford led 33-24 in shots on goal.

After lighting up the scoreboard during last Saturday's wild 7-5 affair in Rockford, it was assumed that the IceHogs and Admirals would play a slightly more reserved style as they reconvened in Milwaukee. However, the first period in Milwaukee had signs of the same free-wheeling pace as their previous meeting.

An IceHogs penalty by Dillon Fournier set up both goals of an opening frame that ended in a 1-1 tie, as special teams play continue to be a major factor between these two clubs. Rockford was the first to cash in, as Phillip Danault grabbed his second shorthanded tally in as many games. After forcing a turnover in the Milwaukee end, Danault threw a shot across the crease that rebounded to the point and a waiting Stephen Johns. The defenseman threw the puck on net, which got just enough of a redirection by Danault to evade Mazanec.

Rockford's 1-0 lead lasted only 1:12 before Triston Grant tied the game, with Fournier still watching from the box. The Admirals caught the IceHogs running around in the defensive zone, when a centering pass by Pontus Aberg on the half wall found Grant all alone in front of Darling. The veteran forward beat the helpless goaltender on a one-timer to pick up his ninth of the season at 7:47.

Grant's marker was the only blemish on a strong performance by the Rockford penalty kill, who killed off each of the next four penalties, finishing 4-for-5. The IceHogs power play finished 1-for-3. It was the second straight game in which Rockford scored both while up and down a man.

Play tightened up considerably late in the first period and into the second, where chances for either sides were at a premium. The best opportunity came for the Admirals late in the middle frame, when Darling came out and dove at Richard Clune who was all alone at the time. While Clune was able to sidestep the surprise attack, a strong back check from T.J. Brennan was able to keep Clune from scoring in the vacant net.

The bizarre play culminated in a Milwaukee power play, as Darling bowled over Clune during his return to the goalcrease.

Rockford now turns its attention to a pair of home games against the AHL West Division's best to complete their three-in-three set this weekend. The IceHogs host the league-leading Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center before the San Antonio Rampage come to town on Sunday afternoon.

Next Home Game: Saturday, Feb. 14, vs. Oklahoma City Barons: Game begins at 7 p.m. Rockford hosts the Barons for the first time this season in a Valentine’s Day matchup at the BMO. The first 1,500 fans through the gates will also receive a limited edition IceHogs poster, presented by Hub Printing.