Cody Bass nets three points as Rockford clips Chicago 4-3
Rockford, Ill. - The Rockford IceHogs' historic stretch of play in the Forest City is still alive and well. The IceHogs (46-22-5-2) withstood a late comeback attempt and recorded their ninth-straight home victory, downing the Chicago Wolves (39-28-6-1) 4-3 on Friday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
With the win, Rockford remains in contention for a Midwest Division title heading into their final game of the regular season. The IceHogs remain one point behind the Grand Rapids Griffins - who defeated Charlotte Friday night - in the race for first place in the Midwest and a top-three seed in the Western Conference. If the Griffins fall to Charlotte and Rockford can beat Toronto on Saturday, the IceHogs would earn their first division title in their AHL history.
Rockford put a potential Griffins celebration on hold as they outlasted the Wolves in the 12th and final leg of the 2014-15 Illinois Lottery Cup series. Center Cody Bass tallied three points (2g-1a) and Alex Broadhurst added a goal and an assist to give Rockford their eighth win of the season over their crosstown foe - the most ever in the eight-year rivalry between the two teams.
The Wolves' Rob Bordson netted a pair of goals in the third period to cut deficits to 3-2 and 4-3, but in the end it was timely scoring and a handful of key saves from Michael Leighton that made the difference for the IceHogs.
After Chicago made it 3-2 six minutes into the final period on Bordson's first tally, Bass responded five minutes later with his second of the evening. The grinding forward had the puck on the goal line and caught goaltender Jordan Binnington anticipating a pass, as he squeezed his sixth of the season through the short side at 11:04.
Bordson made it a one-goal affair again at 12:37, when he stepped in from the blue line to fire a loose puck in the slot past Leighton - in nearly identical fashion as he scored his earlier in the period. Up until Friday, Bass and Bordson combined for 10 goals scored over 119 games played this year. The pair traded off four tallies in a 14:04 span in the season-series finale.
Chicago mounted plenty of pressure over the last seven minutes of play looking to complete the comeback, but a pair of sturdy Rockford penalty kills and a few timely stops assured the rally fell short. The IceHogs kept the Wolves scoreless on four power play opportunities, and Leighton picked up win No. 22 on the year with a 26-save effort.
The 33-year-old's biggest stop came back in the first period, where he prevented the visitors from taking an early 1-0 lead on a golden scoring chance. Facing a 3-on-2 rush from Chicago's top line, Leighton slid across his crease to stymie leading-scorer Shane Harper with a beautiful glove save.
The IceHogs were able to forage a 1-0 lead from the opening period, when a Chicago penalty opened the door for the game's first goal off the stick of Alex Broadhurst. With Petteri Lindbohm in the box for interference and their power play dug into the offensive zone, a Stephen Johns point blast handcuffed starting goalie Matt Climie and found its way into the slot. Peter Regin forwarded the loose puck to the right post, where Broadhurst hammered home his sixth of the year with 1:44 left in the period.
Chicago tied the game at a goal apiece when Yannick Veilleux converted a cross-crease feed from Jacob Doty at 7:13 of the second period. The momentum gained would not last long however.
Rockford scored twice in the last six minutes of the period to take a 3-1 lead, a rally that began with yet another goal from rookie Tanner Kero. The young center scored his fourth marker in five games after signing an amateur tryout contract, beating Climie through the arms right off of an offensive zone draw at 14:41.
Bass put his team up by two at 18:33, when he benefitted from a nice hustle play from Ryan Hartman. When a Viktor Svedberg point shot landed wide left of the net, Hartman collected the loose puck and circled to the right post, where he found Bass waiting all alone in the slot.
Climie stopped 16 of 19 shots through the first two periods of play, before being replaced by Binnington (five saves) for the third.
The IceHogs look to take their 10th-straight victory at the BMO on Saturday as they wrap up their regular season schedule against the Toronto Marlies. Tickets are limited to standing room only on Saturday, and unused season tickets and any remaining valid ticket vouchers for the regular season may be used for Game A or Game B of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Next Home Game: Saturday, April 18 vs. Toronto Marlies. Game starts at 7 p.m. Rockford wraps up the regular season schedule against the Toronto Marlies on Fan Appreciation Night at the BMO.