Chicago, Ill. – The home team has had the advantage in the season series between the Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves. However, the IceHogs reversed the trend Saturday en route to a 4-2 victory at Allstate Arena to claim the Illinois Lottery Cup for a second-straight season.
The IceHogs and Wolves traded goals for the first 40 minutes before entering the third knotted at 2-2. Forward Tanner Kero broke the stalemate late in the final frame when Kirill Gotovet’s shot banked off him and into the Wolves net with 5:08 remaining.
Rockford added an insurance marker when Dane Walters found an empty net with 29 seconds left to seal the game. The victory puts Rockford’s 14 points in the 12-game season series out of reach of the Wolves with only three games left on the schedule between the two clubs. Prior to Saturday, the home team had won each of the eight matchups.
The IceHogs picked up right where they left off 24 hours prior with a strong start to jump out in front. Just 1:09 into the contest, Kyle Baun and Bryan Bickell worked the puck around to Dennis Robertson along the blue line and the d-man ripped a shot past Pheonix Copley to put the IceHogs out front 1-0.
Chicago took advantage of their first power play opportunity to tie the game right back up. Goaltender Michael Leighton stopped a barrage of Wolves’ shots before Dmitrij Jaskin found a rebound and finished it off at 5:14 of the opening period.
The IceHogs had a prime chance to regain control after the Wolves took three consecutive penalties. Copley kept his team in it however, stopping two shots from Bickell before denying a backhanded attempt from Kero.
After the penalties expired, the IceHogs kept applying the pressure and Ryan Haggerty finally broke through. Defenseman Jonathan Carlsson sent a pass to Haggerty in the right faceoff circle and the winger rifled in his sixth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
Following Chicago’s tying first goal, the IceHogs outshot the home squad 14-0 to finish a dominating period in which they registered 21 total shots for the second-straight period, including Friday’s third period against Manitoba.
Again in the middle frame, the Wolves used a power play to tie the score at 2-2. Jordan Schmaltz raced into the IceHogs zone and dropped a pass to Danny Kristo. Chicago’s leading goal scorer corralled the pass and blasted a shot past Leighton at 7:41.
Kyle Baun nearly gave the IceHogs a lead once again late in the second frame. Bickell forced a turnover in the neutral zone before sending Kero and Baun on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Kero patiently waited before sending a pass for Baun to tip but a sprawled out Copley was able to keep it out.
Leighton earned his 25th win of the campaign by stopping 26 shots. Copley was tagged with a loss despite a 36-save performance.
The IceHogs failed to convert on six power play chances while the Wolves finished 2-for-2.
Next Home Game: Tickets for Saturday, March 5 vs. Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m are SOLD OUT. Tickets still remain for the game on March 6 versus the Monsters at 4 p.m. After the game, the team will host a “Skate with the Hogs” event where fans will be welcome to skate on the ice with their favorite IceHogs players.