Jamie Wise notches the game-winner in Illinois Lottery Cup thriller
Rockford, Ill. - It may have taken a little longer than they anticipated, but the Rockford IceHogs still got the result they were looking for on Friday night. The IceHogs (26-13-4-2) were 1:02 away from winning in regulation time, but happily settled for an 3-2 overtime victory over the Chicago Wolves (21-17-5-1) in front of a sold-out crowd of 6339 at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford coughed up a 2-1 lead in the waning moments of the third period, but found redemption when rookie forward Jamie Wise beat Chicago goaltender Jordan Binnington 2:05 into the overtime period. The sudden-death triumph gave the IceHogs their sixth win against the Wolves this season.
Wise began the final play when he advanced an outlet pass from netminder Michael Leighton through the neutral zone, where he and Pierre-Cedric Labrie executed a perfectly-timed give-and-go just inside the attacking blue line. The young forward used the extra space to snap a seeing-eye shot through Binnington's arms to send the raucous home crowd satisfied. Labrie and Leighton picked up the helpers on Wise's second-career AHL tally.
Leighton added his assist to another strong performance, turning aside 28 of 30 shots to pick up his third straight victory. The IceHogs goaltender is now unbeaten in his last eight starts dating back to New Year's Eve, posting a 5-0-2 record with a .965 save percentage, a 1.15 goals against average and two shutouts over that stretch. Binnington picked up the extra-time loss for the Wolves, making 26 saves.
Chicago forced the bonus hockey when they found a late equalizer with Binnington pulled for the extra attacker. Shane Harper jumped on a rebound from a Mathieu Brodeur shot and slid it across the net mouth, right to where Adam Burish was waiting patiently. The veteran hammered home his second of the night, in addition to his first period marker which tied the game at one.
The IceHogs were able to grab their third-period edge with a healthy amount of help from the end boards at the BMO. A Viktor Svedberg bomb from the left point missed its target, but took a lively carom off the dasher, bouncing off the heel of Binnington's skate and into the net. The generous break gave Rockford a 2-1 advantage at 10:48 of the period, and Svedberg his first goal since Nov. 21 against Iowa.
As a whole, Friday night perfectly fit the blueprint of how the IceHogs and Wolves have played one another: fast, physical and tight. The two sides started the contest trading hits, scoring chances and first period goals, heading into the second tied at one.
After a couple of golden opportunities on their first power play went fruitless, the IceHogs opened the scoring on their next look with the extra man. Binnington made a stunning pad save on a Peter Regin one-timer, but Garret Ross won the battle for the rebound, sending it across the slot to a waiting Mark McNeill, who poked the loose puck past the sprawling goaltender at 15:27 of the period. Rockford's All-Star center later picked up an assist on Svedberg's goal, giving him two points on the evening and eight (4g-4a) in six games against the Wolves this season.
It took the visitors just over two minutes to even the score when Burish picked up his first of the outing. A loose puck off of the right post just evaded the reach of Leighton, who could not catch up with play before Chicago cycled the puck to David Shields on the blue line. The defenseman's point blast went off Burish's stick and in the net to get the Wolves on the board at 17:34 of the first.
The second period passed without any scoring, thanks primarily to a couple of momentous saves by each goaltender. Leighton made a gorgeous toe save, robbing former IceHog Terry Broadhurst on a two-on-one rush, which was soon matched by a breakaway save from Binnington on Cody Bass.
Rockford finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage while keeping Chicago's AHL-leading road power play unit scoreless on two chances.
Now holding a record of 6-2-1-0 against their in-state rivals, the IceHogs need two more standings point to win their second Lottery Cup title outright, and have three more games on the schedule against Chicago to do so. Rockford's first opportunity comes Saturday night when the two teams finish their home-and-home series at the Allstate Arena at 7 p.m.
Next Home Game: Saturday Feb. 7 vs. Milwaukee Admirals. Puck drops at 7 p.m. The IceHogs pay homage to their all-time leading scorer when they return to the BMO for Jeremy Morin Bobblehead Night against the Admirals. The first 2,500 fans will receive a bobblehead of the former IceHog, courtesy of Dental Dimensions.