Rockford, Ill. – With first place in the Central Division on the line, the Rockford IceHogs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and never looked back as they beat the Milwaukee Admirals by a 6-4 score Wednesday night.
The victory gave Rockford the outright lead in the division over Milwaukee and marked the fourth time the team scored six goals in a game this season. Vince Hinostroza led the charge for the IceHogs with an two goals and an assist, including the game-winner, in his first game back with the team following a recent stint with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Ryan Haggerty provided the opening tally for the IceHogs, beating starting goaltender Juuse Saros on an inspired individual effort just 3:35 into the contest. After receiving the puck from Cameron Schilling, Haggerty drove down the left wing before powering across the front of the cage to his forehand and burying his seventh goal of the season.
Just seconds following a point-blank save by Michael Leighton on Max Reinhart, Tanner Kero doubled Rockford’s lead. Hinostroza freed the puck up in the neutral zone for a streaking Ville Pokka, who found Kero on the backdoor for an easy tap-in at 7:45 of the first period.
The goal was the 14th of the season for Kero, and gave him a one-goal advantage over Mark McNeill for the team lead for all of six minutes. With 6:51 remaining in the opening frame, Ryan Hartman tucked a no-look feed into the slot, where McNeill wired a wrister over the blocker of Saros to make the score 3-0 in favor of Rockford. The goal chased Saros in favor of Marek Mazanec.
Vladislav Kamenev pulled the Admirals within two goals on the power play 7:11 into the middle stanza. Taylor Aronson split the IceHogs defense with a cross-ice pass, and Kamenev raced into the high slot before snapping a shot over the glove hand of Leighton to end the shutout bid for the Rockford goaltender.
Hinostroza and the IceHogs responded in convincing fashion as the rookie centerman picked up two goals 23 seconds apart to put the contest out of reach. Bryan Bickell provided the spark for the first tally by wheeling around the cage before finding Kero on the backdoor, who saw his centering pass to Hinostroza tipped over the shoulder of Mazanec at 11:59. Hinostroza bested the Admirals goaltender again at 12:22 as he received a lofted pass from Schilling and backhanded home his 12th goal of the season.
Cody Hodgson managed to beat Leighton at 17:13 of the second period by firing a low shot past the screened IceHogs goaltender while on the power play.
Milwaukee pulled to within two goals yet again at 6:08 of the third period as Hodgson netted his second power-play goal of the game and the third consecutive goal on the man advantage for the Admirals. With Marko Dano in the box for holding, Kevin Fiala ripped a cross-ice feed to Hodgson, who one-timed the puck past Leighton to make the score 5-3.
Bickell put the game out of reach for good on a two-man advantage. Kero and McNeill exchanged passes behind the net before McNeill laid a feed into the wheelhouse of Bickell, who blasted the puck past the glove hand of Mazanec.
Colton Sissons made the score 6-4 with yet another power-play goal with 2:35 to go, but the IceHogs held on to claim the victory and outright possession of first place in the division.
Rockford went 1-for-5 on the power play while allowing a goal on each of Milwaukee’s three power plays.
Leighton had 28 saves in the victory while Saros saved six of nine shots before Mazenec turned aside seven of 10.
Next Home Game: Tickets for Saturday, March 5 vs. Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m are SOLD OUT. Tickets still remain for the game on March 6 versus the Monsters at 4 p.m. After the game, the team will host a “Skate with the Hogs” event where fans will be welcome to skate on the ice with their favorite IceHogs players.