IceHogs comeback with three third period goals
Cedar Park, Tex. – It has been nearly seven years but the Rockford IceHogs are back in the postseason win column. The IceHogs used three third period goals to knock off the defending Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars 4-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday night.
Rockford’s series opening win put an end to a 10-game playoff losing streak which dates back to May 9, 2008. Added with their regular season meetings, the victory also gives the IceHogs nine straight wins against the Stars, dating back to Jan. 21, 2013.
After skating to a 1-1 stalemate after 40 minutes, the momentum seemed to have shifted to the home side. Texas’ rookie defenseman Julius Honka delivered his first career postseason tally to give the Stars a 2-1 lead early into the third period.
However, the IceHogs used three straight Texas infractions to mount a comeback. It was a likely source who led the late offensive charge for Rockford as Spencer Abbott tied the contest at 2-2. With Patrik Nemeth and Maxime Fortunus in the box for Texas, the IceHogs utilized all of their time on the two-man advantage before Abbott bagged his second power play strike of the game with one second remaining on the 5-on-3.
The Stars were able to kill off the two penalties that followed, including another 5-on-3 advantage for Rockford, but the Hogs continued to carry much of the play. Then, with his seventh shot on goal, defenseman Kirill Gotovets made it count as he reclaimed the Rockford lead. Phillip Danault found Gotovets joining the play from the blueline and the d-man ripped a shot top-shelf to make it a 3-2 game with 7:41 remaining on the clock.
As time was winding down in the final frame, Texas pulled goaltender Jussi Rynnas in a last ditch effort to find the equalizer. But it was Ryan Hartman that put the finishing touches on a Game 1 victory for the IceHogs with an empty net goal with 1:04 to go.
As one of the best road teams (22 wins) in the AHL during the regular season, Rockford came out with fire in the opening period at the Cedar Park Center. Rockford received the game’s first power play at 6:06 into the first period and it didn’t take long for the IceHogs to cash in. From below the goal line Hartman fed Abbott for his first marker of the game, just 17 seconds into the power play to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Texas got it back in the second period off the stick of Curtis McKenzie. A scramble in front of the IceHogs cage resulted in a puck squirting out from under Michael Leighton and straight to the awaiting stick of McKenzie. The Texas winger flipped it back into the net at 16:37 to tie the game at 1-1.
Leighton earned his first AHL playoff win in seven years, stopping 33 shots in the process. The IceHogs finished 2-for-6 on the power play while Texas was 1-for-4.
The IceHogs and Stars will faceoff for Game 2 at Cedar Park Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, April 29, Western Conference Quarterfinals - Game 3, vs. Texas Stars. Face-off is at 7 p.m. The IceHogs will play their first Calder Cup Playoff game in the Forest City since 2010 when the opening round series shifts to Rockford for Game 3. The first 1,500 fans will receive a free cowbell courtesy of BMO Harris Bank. The festivities begin prior to puck drop during a Pregame Block Party, sponsored by Swedish American Hospital.