Rockford, Ill. – After putting their penalty kill unit to the test during regulation, the Rockford IceHogs edged the Chicago Wolves 4-3 in a shootout thriller on Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Jeremy Morin and Garret Ross each scored in the shootout while goaltender Michael Leighton stopped two of the three Chicago shooters to give Rockford its second straight win on home ice.
With the score at 3-1 in the final frame and the game nearly in hand, the IceHogs put themselves in a bad position against the AHL’s most potent offense. Rockford took its eighth penalty of the night after Pierre-Cedric Labrie was called for roughing at 12:04. Chicago, who averaged a league-best 5.67 goals per game going into the contest, took full advantage and mounted a rally. With five seconds left on Chicago’s power play, Leighton blocked a shot from Jordan Schmaltz but Jeremy Welsh was on the doorstep to deposit the rebound and bring the score to 3-2.
Just over a minute later the Wolves, again, took advantage of a Rockford penalty, this time with open ice as both teams were skating with four aside. Petteri Lindbohm ripped a shot that hit Pat Cannone, who was positioned in front of Leighton. Cannone corralled the loose puck as it dropped to the ice and fired it past Rockford’s netminder from point blank to even the score at 3-3.
Each team traded chances in an exciting 3-on-3 overtime session, the first for both squads this season. The best chance in the extra frame for Rockford came when Marko Dano and Tanner Kero raced in on a 2-on-1 breakaway but Dano’s pass was blocked away by the Wolves defender before the Hogs leading goal scorer could get his stick on the puck.
Leighton was stellar in net for Rockford, stopping 33 shots in regulation and two more in the shootout, to earn his third win of the season. Rockford’s penalty kill unit stopped Chicago on eight of their nine chances with the man advantage while the power play failed to convert on four opportunities.
Ryan Hartman nearly got the scoring started at 12:13 in the opening frame. Hartman raced in on a breakaway but was dragged down by a Wolves defender. Hartman was then awarded the IceHogs first penalty shot of the season but was denied by Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Just over two minutes later Pierre-Cedric Labrie gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the season. Erik Gustafsson wired a shot from the blueline that Labrie deflected in front and it bounced past Binnington at 10:15.
Hartman wouldn’t be denied of a goal 1:02 later to double the IceHogs lead. Ville Pokka fired a shot at the Wolves cage that Binnington blocked down but couldn’t locate. With the loose puck sitting in the blue paint, Hartman poked it to the back of the net just before Binnington could cover it.
Rockford escaped their first real test on the penalty kill when they killed off a Jeremy Morin double-minor for high-sticking at the end of the first period and to start the second.
However, Chicago got on the board at 14:04 in the second period when Danny Kristo pocketed his third goal of the season. Kristo drove hard to the IceHogs net before flipping the puck over Leighton’s glove to cut Rockford’s lead in half at 2-1.
In the early stages of the third frame, the IceHogs fed off an early penalty kill to regain the two goal advantage. Kirill Gotovets sprung Brandon Mashinter and Mark McNeill on an odd man rush into the Wolves zone. Mashinter sent a perfectly timed pass for McNeill to rifle in at 5:06 of the third period and make it 3-1.
Next Home Game: Tuesday, Oct. 27 vs. Charlotte Checkers at 7 p.m. The IceHogs welcome the Checkers to the BMO Harris Bank Center on another “Winning Weekday.” Every time the IceHogs win at home on a weekday, each fan in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next weekday game. Fans can also enjoy $2 beers, hot dogs, and companion tickets.