Rockford, Il. - Michael Leighton moved into sole possession of second place on the AHL’s all-time regular season shutout list with his first shutout of the season and 42nd career perfect performance, as the Rockford IceHogs handled the Iowa Wild 4-0 on Friday night.
Rockford capitalized early and never looked back. Iowa missed a wide open chance eight minutes into the game. Seconds after the Wild’s Christoph Bertschy missed an empty cage, Dennis Robertson intercepted a pass at the red line, walked down the left wing, and slipped a shot under the left leg of Leland Irving for the first goal of the season by an IceHogs defenseman at 8:31.
The IceHogs doubled their lead at 6:32 of the middle frame. After teaming up to strip the Wild of the puck in the neutral zone, Marko Dano and Brandon Mashinter combined on a pretty give-and-go play. Dano drew two defenders to the middle of the ice while leaving the puck at the top of the left circle for Mashinter, who wired a shot over the blocker of Irving for his third goal of the season.
The offensive onslaught continued just minutes later. Just as a penalty to Michael Keranen expired, Mark McNeill circled in front of the Iowa net and slid the puck to Nolan Valleau, who had crept into the high slot. Valleau faked a shot and tucked a nifty no-look pass to a waiting Dennis Rasmussen, who buried his second marker of the season at 9:36.
Leighton continued a strong performance in the second period to keep the Wild off the scoreboard, stopping nine Iowa shots. His best stops came nearly 13 minutes into the stanza, when he robbed Brett Bulmer and denied Kellan Lain on a follow-up chance.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie extended the IceHogs lead to four at 7:55. Jake Dowell won an offensive zone faceoff directly to the unmarked winger, who pumped a shot past Irving for his second goal of the season. The crowd at the BMO Harris Bank Center remained standing for several minutes as Labrie proceeded to fight Kurtis Gabriel off the ensuing draw, and Mashinter dropped the gloves with Tyson Strachan moments afterward.
Leighton only faced five shots in the final frame, but the final period wasn’t without drama for the netminder. Matt Carey hit the crossbar two minutes into the period, and the IceHogs went on the penalty kill with 2:12 to play when Kirill Gotovets was sent off for holding. Iowa never threatened, though and Leighton earned his sixth shutout with the IceHogs.
Irving saved 30 shots for Iowa while Leighton turned away 20 for Rockford. The IceHogs went 0-for-4 on the power play, but held Iowa scoreless on five man advantages.
Next Home Game: Saturday, Nov. 7 vs. Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m.: The IceHogs will pay tribute to all armed service personnel with Military Appreciation Night at 7 p.m. when the Milwaukee Admirals come to town. The first 1,500 fans will receive bomber hats compliments of Pepsi.