Rockford, Ill. – With the top spot in the Central Division on the line, the Rockford IceHogs (26-10-2-4) took a 3-1 victory and gained some separation over the third place Charlotte Checkers (25-13-1-2) on Wednesday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Forward Vince Hinostroza helped spark Rockford’s offense with a goal and an assist for his team-best sixth multi-point outing of the season. Goaltender Michael Leighton shut down Charlotte’s potent offense by only surrendering one goal in a 23 save performance to remain unbeaten over his last 11 games (8-0-3).
Hinostroza opened the scoring as he continued a hot stretch in which he has recorded goals in four of his last five contests. Tanner Kero sent a pass behind his back to an awaiting Hinostroza, who shook free of two Checkers defenders at the top of the faceoff circles before snapping his eighth goal of the season past Daniel Altshuller to make it 1-0 at 10:36 in the first period.
The Checkers tied the game with 45 seconds left in the opening frame, preventing the IceHogs from entering the break with the lead. Phil Di Giuseppe and the Checkers took full advantage of a power play, scoring in just 13 seconds with the extra man, to even the score at 1-1.
Despite putting their penalty kill to the test in the middle frame against the Checkers second-ranked power play, the IceHogs took control of the game in the second stanza, outshooting Charlotte 20-8.
After killing off three consecutive penalties, including a brief 5-on-3, Rockford picked up the intensity and broke the stalemate. Hinostroza and Mark McNeill dug a loose puck out of the corner before sending it to Cameron Schilling at the point. Schilling then rifled a laser that surprised Altshuller and found the back of the net at 16:42. The assist for McNeill extended his point streak (4g-4a) to seven straight games, tying a season-long set by Jake Dowell.
Rockford nearly added to the lead just before the second came to an end while shorthanded once again. Bryan Bickell fired a shot that Altshuller turned away but Pierre-Cedric Labrie fought for the rebound and rang it off the post with 1:12 remaining.
However, Labrie carried the momentum over to the final frame and slammed home his team-best 13th goal of the season to finish off the Checkers and hand the visitors just their second regulation loss over their last 19 games.
Rockford outshot the Checkers 38-24 in the game and finished 0-for-5 on the power play. Charlotte converted on just one of their seven chances with the man-advantage.
Carrying a 5-1-0-1 record over the last seven games, the IceHogs close out the season-long eight game home stand at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday against the Chicago Wolves.
Next Home Game: Friday, Jan. 29 versus Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m. The IceHogs host the Wolves in yet another Illinois Lottery Cup matchup. Rock Valley Culligan will sponsor a sock monkey giveaway to the first 2,500 fans. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. for a Blues Flame Lounge Friday. Fans 21-and-older are invited to enjoy live blues music, a happy hour special, and free appetizers at the Blue Flame Lounge on the main concourse.