Rockford, Ill. – In their final home match preceding a five-game road trip, the Rockford IceHogs (12-4-1-2) put forth a wire-to-wire performance to earn a 3-1 victory over their intrastate rival Chicago Wolves (9-4-1-1).
Michael Leighton only needed to stop 14 shots to pick up his 11th win of the campaign, maintaining his outright AHL lead. The win was his 204th career AHL victory, good for sole possession of 11th all-time.
Rockford dominated the pace of play early and Jeremy Morin put the home squad on the board at 13:49 of the first period with his fifth goal of the year. After speeding down the wing on the rush, Morin slid a pass to Dennis Rasmussen who saw his slot shot blockered away by Jordan Binnington. No Wolves defenders accounted for Morin, though, who circled behind the net and came out the other side to fling the puck under the goaltender and into the back of the net.
Tensions came to a boiling point with only a minute to play in the opening stanza and culminated in a scrap between Chris DeSousa and Justin Hodgman. DeSousa took an exception to a hit at the red line and earned a quick takedown in front of the benches. The scrap set the stage for a total of eight fighting majors and four misconducts between the two teams.
Chicago tied the contest 4:45 into the middle frame courtesy of a Cody Beach shot from the high circles. Jacob Doty turned out of the corner and found Beach, who rifled a puck under Leighton before he could get down to block the effort.
The IceHogs turned the tide of the game at the end of a sequence during which a Wolves goal seemed imminent. At the end of a long shift, Jake Dowell forced a neutral zone turnover and found Bryan Bickell streaking down the wing opposite the benches. Bickell stepped across the middle of the ice and ripped a wrister that beat Binnington glove-side, giving the IceHogs the 2-1 lead 8:03 into the second period.
Vince Hinostroza appeared to have doubled the lead three minutes later on a wraparound attempt, but Binnington sprawled back with his right leg to keep the puck from crossing the goal line.
The middle period saw continued pugilism, with Viktor Svedberg and Yannick Veilleux squaring off moments before Dennis Robertson and Beach fought. Ivan Barbashev and the Wolves went too far following the bouts, though, and picked up a high-sticking double minor at 14:28.
The IceHogs capitalized quickly on the ensuing power play. Erik Gustafsson fed Rasmussen, whose point shot was sticked away by Binnington right to a waiting Ville Pokka. He then deposited it into the back of the cage at 15:13, making the score 3-1 and earning the outright team lead in points with his 12th.
Chicago tried to close the gap late in the second, but Leighton robbed Danny Kristo of a tally with just over a minute to play, flashing leather to maintain the two-goal lead.
Rockford closed out a wire-to-wire performance with gusto in the third, only allowing four shots over the final 20 minutes. A series of misconducts and fighting majors left Chicago with only 13 men on their bench for several minutes in the third, allowing the IceHogs to seal the victory.
Leighton stopped 14 shots in the victory while Binnington turned aside 31 in the loss. Rockford’s power play went one-for-five while Chicago was held scoreless over the course of four chances.
Next Home Game: Friday, Dec. 11 vs. Iowa Wild at 7 p.m. Rockford returns home after a five-game road trip to battle the Iowa Wild. The first 1,000 fans 21-and-older will receive an IceHogs Beer Stein courtesy of Bud Light. 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.