Rockford, Ill – For much of the first half of the game Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center it appeared that the Rockford IceHogs (38-19-5-2) were going to easily cruise to their fifth straight victory. However, following a brief second period scare, the IceHogs were able to fend off the Lake Erie Monsters (28-26-6-4) to earn a 3-2 win over their divisional rival.
Things started off well for the IceHogs squad as they built up a 3-0 cushion before Lake Erie was able to muster a response. With Garret Ross in the box for a hooking penalty it didn’t take long for the Monsters to capitalize to get on the board. Ben Youds snuck behind the IceHogs defenders and received a cross-ice pass from Ben Street to score his eighth tally of the season, beating Antti Raanta to make it a 3-1 game.
Less than a minute later Youds was called for roughing but the visitors kept their momentum going. On a two-on-one rush, Street fired the initial shot the caromed off the pads of Raanta and onto the stick of Ben Gervais who banged home the shorthanded maker to bring the Monsters within one with 6:49 remaining in the second period.
Later on the same penalty, Rockford appeared to regain the momentum when it looked as if the IceHogs scored. But after a brief conference among the officials it was determined that there was incidental contact with Calvin Pickard prior to the goal which waved off the marker.
Despite allowing a pair of second period goals and being outshot in the final 20 minutes 13-5, Raanta and the IceHogs held off the Monsters rally to earn their fifth victory in a row. The win for Rockford pushes them into fourth place in the Western Conference with 83 points, just one behind the Midwest Division leading Grand Rapids Griffins.
McNeill finished with two points on the night (2a) which was his team-best ninth of campaign while Pokka recorded a goal and assist, his sixth multi-point effort of the season. The victory was the 150th career win for head coach Ted Dent behind the bench in the American Hockey League.
Rockford got off to a great start with a pair of tallies in the opening frame. The IceHogs used a quick transition when Spencer Abbott hit Kyle Cumiskey in stride just inside the offensive zone. Cumiskey fired a shot from between the circles that trickled off the glove of Pickard and into the cage for his second tally of the season at the 10:35 of the first period.
Later in the frame, the Hogs struck again, this time on the man advantage. Alex Broadhurst won a faceoff back to Mark McNeill. The winger slid a pass onto the stick of Ville Pokka at the point and he blistered a one-timer through traffic and into the back of the net for his eighth marker of the campaign. After missing 42 games due to injury and playing his second game, the helper for Broadhurst was his first since Nov. 21, 2014 against Iowa.
With under a minute remaining in the first, the IceHogs drew another Monsters penalty that carried over to the second period. Then, just 35 ticks into the stanza, McNeill skated along the far boards before firing the disc at a crashing Brandon Mashinter who was able to tap in his second goal in as many games and 15th of the season.
The IceHogs remained red-hot with an extra skater as they cashed in on two of their five power play chances. Over their last 11 contests, Rockford has struck gold on the power play in 10 of them, converting 25.6% (12-47).
Next Home Game: Friday, April 3 vs. Grand Rapid Griffins: Face-off is at 7 p.m. It’s Golf Rockford Night at the BMO as the first 1,500 fans into the building will receive an IceHogs “Jeff Cap” thanks to Bud Light. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. for fans 21 and older to enjoy another Blue Flame Lounge pre-game party with live music courtesy of Dan Phelps.