Mashinter chips in his eighth multi-point outing, including a penalty shot tally
Charlotte, N.C. - For the opening minutes of the game, it appeared the Rockford IceHogs (44-22-5-2) were going to cruise to a sixth straight victory over the Charlotte Checkers (30-36-6-1). However, at the end of regulation from the Time Warner Cable Arena, it was the Checkers who came back from a two goal deficit to defeat the IceHogs by a score of 4-3.
Tied at two goals apiece after 40 minutes, the visiting IceHogs were whistled for penalty and forced to play down a skater 6:42 into te final frame. The IceHogs were unable to gain control of the puck as Charlotte maintained possession around the offensive zone for much of the infraction. With 11 seconds remaining on the power play Justin Shugg, from the right of IceHogs goaltender Michael Leighton, sent a cross-ice pass to Haydn Fleury at the top circle. Fleury ripped his first career pro goal over the right shoulder of Leighton to give the home squad their first lead of the afternoon.
Later in frame and the IceHogs looking for the equalizer, Brandon Mashinter was sprung in all alone on goalie Rasmus Tirronen. Mashinter was unable to get a shot on the cage but he was hauled down by a Checkers defender and awarded a penalty shot.
Mashinter skating with the puck against the rookie netminder, making his professional debut, slipped the puck between the pads and it trickled to the back of the cage to tie the contest at three with 4:54 left in regulation. With the goal, Mashinter becomes the first IceHogs player to convert on a penalty shot on the road since Brad Mills beat Danny Taylor on March 22, 2013 against Abbotsford.
The IceHogs appeared to regain control of the game after the tying score but it was short lived as Charlotte poked in the go-ahead goal and eventual game winner just over two minutes later. Unable to clear the puck out defensive zone, Chad LaRose fired a shot in on Leighton. With traffic in front of the net, the IceHogs netminder was able to poke check it out of danger but it landed on the stick of Brock McGinn and he tipped in the eventual game-deciding goal with 3:39 left to play.
With a late power play and Leighton off the ice in favor of another extra attacker, the IceHogs had chances late to try to even the score once again and force overtime. However, Rockford was unable to find the back of the cage as they fell in their final road contest of the regular season and snapped a five game winning streak.
The game started out well for the Hogs as Mashinter set up Carl Dahlstrom at the blueline just 1:48 into the contest. The 20 year-old rookie making his first AHL debut ripped a shot that Tanner Kero redirected past Tirronen giving the Hogs an early 1-0 lead. The helper was Dahlstrom's first of his young professional career.
Later in the opening period, Phillip Danault parked in front of Tirronen and pushed the IceHogs lead to 2-0. Mark McNeill pulled the puck below goal line before sliding a pass to Danault and he banged home his 12th goal of the campaign at the 7:18 mark. Garret Ross and McNeill each got credit with the assists, giving them each 43 points on the season.
Down a pair of goals the Checkers responded however, and brought the contest to a 2-2 tie within 3:08 of Danault's goal. Patrick Brown picked up his second goal of the season at 8:53 when he tipped in a puck past Leighton. Then, Justin Shugg evened the score at two with his team-leading 20th marker of the season with 9:34 remaining in the first period.
The IceHogs power play failed to convert on all six of their chances while the Checkers cashed in on one of their three chances.
Rockford will return home for the final three games of the regular season, hosting the Checkers for a third straight matchup on Wednesday before battling the Chicago Wolves and Toronto Marlies over the weekend. With 95 points, the Hogs trail the Grand Rapids Griffins (96) by a point for the Midwest Division lead and the San Antonio Rampage (97) by two points for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, April 15 vs. Charlotte Checkers. The IceHogs begin a three-game homestand to close out their regular season schedule when they host Charlotte at the BMO. It is the final WXRX Dollar Day of the season, so fans have one last chance to enjoy hot dogs, sodas, beers and companion tickets all for just $1 each.