Garret Ross and Ryan Hartman each tally twice
Rockford, Ill. – Looking for revenge from their lopsided loss in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, the Rockford IceHogs (40-21-5-2) got just that as they dropped the Grand Rapids Griffins 6-2 in a rematch on Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Much like their previous matchup the Hogs pelted Griffins goaltender Tom McCollum with a barrage of shots, this time with more success finding the back of the net. The offense for Rockford came from all angles as 12 skaters registered at least a point with Garret Ross (2g-1a) and Ryan Hartman (2g) leading the way with two goals a piece.
The victory put Rockford right back in contention for the Division title with eight games remaining and the Hogs sitting just three points behind the first place Griffins. The IceHogs can also clinch their first playoff berth in four years Saturday with a win over Rochester and a Hamilton Bulldogs loss to the Utica Comets.
The IceHogs nearly matched their opening frame from Wednesday night when they outshot Grand Rapids 21-9 through the first 20 minutes. Again Rockford nearly put up 20 shots (19-9) in the first period but the difference on Friday was those shots finding the back of the net as the Hogs raced out to a 2-0 lead.
Defenseman Viktor Svedberg put a shot in on the Griffins cage that McCollum blocked. After Ross took a whack at the loose puck sitting in front of the Griffins’ netminder, it kicked out to Mark McNeill and he deposited it in for his 19th of the season. The Hogs then doubled their lead to 2-0 when Spencer Abbott setup Peter Regin. The centerman lit the lamp when he took a pass from Abbott and ripped a shot top-shelf over McCollum at 12:44 in the first.
With 1:41 remaining in the first period, the Griffins were able to gain some much needed momentum to head into the first break. A battle behind the Rockford cage kicked a loose puck to an awaiting Jeff Hoggan and he snapped a quick shot that trimmed the Hogs’ lead to 2-1.
The IceHogs were able to regain control just 31 seconds into the second period however. Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey zipped a perfectly timed cross-ice feed for Ross to tap in and make it a 3-1 score.
Again the Griffins closed in at the end of the period, this time coming off the stick of Nathan Paetsch. With traffic in front of Raanta, Paetsch snuck a shot from the point through the screen in front and to the back of the net to bring the Griffins back within one at 17:11 in the second.
The final 20 minutes belonged to the IceHogs however as they took final control of the contest scoring twice in 30 seconds and adding an empty netter to seal their fifth straight win at the BMO.
Dennis Rasmussen won a battle along the boards before feeding Alex Broadhurst to the right of the Grand Rapids net. McCollum stopped Broadhurst’s initial attempt but Hartman raced in to bury the rebound at 9:43.
The Hogs continued to pour it on and extend the lead to 5-2 when Ross added his second marker of the night just 30 seconds later. McNeill setup his linemate for his team-leading 20th of the season at 10:13. The helper gave McNeill his team-best 10th multi-point effort of the season (1g-1a).
With the Griffins in desperation mode, Hartman closed out the scoring with his second of the game when fired in his 12th of the season into an empty net with 4:31 remaining.
Raanta made 27 saves en route to his sixth win of the season while McCollum was saddled with the loss despite turning aside 32 chances.
Next Home Game: Saturday, April 4, vs. Rochester Americans. Game starts at 7 p.m. The IceHogs host the Americans for the only time this season on Garden Gnome Giveaway Night. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will leave with an IceHogs garden gnome courtesy of Riverside Dental. Rockford is also teaming up with BMO Harris Bank for their annual sock drive. Fans who bring a pair of new socks to donate will receive a ticket to a future game.