Rockford, Ill. – The top two teams in the Central Division exchanged blows before the Rockford IceHogs emerged with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The game marked the fourth of eight head-to-head matchups between the two clubs that needed extra time to find a winner.
Rockford and Milwaukee found themselves in a stalemate after 40 minutes with each squad tallying a goal in each of the opening two frames.
With 35 seconds left in regulation, Admirals goaltender Marek Mazanec dropped a puck he had grabbed out of the air. Dowell snagged the loose puck and centered it to an awaiting Ryan Haggerty in front of the net. Haggerty nearly won the game before overtime was necessary but Mazanec scrambled back to the net to glove down the attempt.
Just 1:08 into the overtime, Ville Pokka and P.C. Labrie teamed up to make sure the IceHogs earned two standings points. Pokka swept a puck off an Admirals skaters’ stick at the blueline before racing the other way on a breakaway. Pokka’s initial shot ricocheted off the post but Labrie was crashing the net and flipped it in to give the IceHogs a 3-2 win.
Less than 24 hours after getting shutout, the IceHogs were determined to get on the board early as they came out firing against the division-leading Admirals.
The IceHogs outshot their visiting rivals 9-0 before finally cashing in just past the midway point in the opening frame. With Garret Ross and Vince Hinostroza screening the goaltender, Pokka wired a shot from the blueline that Hinostroza got his stick on. Ross blocked Mazanec’s view of the play as the puck deflected off Hinostroza’s stick and past the unaware goaltender to give the IceHogs an early 1-0 edge.
Forward Ryan Hartman nearly doubled the Hogs lead on two separate occasions. With 6:35 remaining in the first period, Hartman raced down the right boards and headed towards the Admirals cage. At the last minute, the 21 year-old opted out of a wrap around attempt and slipped the puck behind his back and under the pads of Mazanec. The puck sat under the Ads goaltender and just above the goal line before he was able to cover. IceHogs Head Coach Ted Dent challenged the officials call on the ice of no goal but after a review the call stood.
Just two minutes later Hartman nearly struck again. He banked a shot off the back boards before following up his own rebound and putting it off the mask of Mazanec.
The Admirals finally had a response to the Hogs pressure in the latter stages of the first period as they mounted a charge of their own. With open ice after matching minor penalties to Kevin Fiala and Hartman, the persistence paid off for the visitors. Winger Adam Payerl forced a turnover right in front of Michael Leighton, spun around, and fired the puck to the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1 with 2:17 to go in the first.
The IceHogs and Admirals traded penalties in the second period and it was Rockford that converted with the man advantage to regain the lead. Mark McNeill moved a puck for Pokka to fire at the Admirals cage. While stationed in front of the net, Labrie deflected the shot past Mazanec to give the IceHogs a 2-1 lead.
The Admirals roared back again late in the period to knot the game back up. Matt White was awarded a penalty shot after he was held up on a breakaway attempt. White used the penalty shot to lock the game back up at 2-2 at 15:52 in the second.
Labrie finished with his second multi-goal game (2g) of the season while Pokka dished out the primary assist on all three of Rockford’s goals. Leighton stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced to earn his 16th win of the season.
Next Home Game: Jan. 12 vs. Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m. The Illinois Lottery Cup contest is also another “Winning Weekday.” If the IceHogs win, every fan in attendance will receive a free ticket of equal or lesser value to the next weekday game. Fans can also enjoy $2 beers, sodas, hot dogs, and companion tickets. The first 1,500 fans who enter through the doors will receive a slice of pizza from Papa Johns.