Rockford, Ill.- Goaltender Michael Leighton set the American Hockey League's all-time shutout record Saturday night, stopping all 35 shots by the Lake Erie Monsters for his 46th career perfect performance in the Rockford IceHogs 5-0 victory.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored twice, while Bryan Bickell, Tanner Kero, and Mark McNeill each had a goal and an assist to lead the home team to the win in front of a sellout crowd of 6,498 at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The IceHogs got a crucial penalty kill midway through the opening frame after Chris DeSousa received a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding. Rockford kept the contest scoreless, with Leighton robbing Kerby Rychel on the doorstep with 30 seconds left on Lake Erie’s man advantage.
Bickell nearly got the home team in front when Vince Hinostroza found him all alone in front of Brad Thiessen with three minutes to play in the opening frame, but the Monsters netminder kicked the try to the corner boards. Thiessen stood tall twice more in the final two minutes, turning away both Ryan Hartman and Garret Ross in close quarters.
It took just 1:22 of the middle stanza for the IceHogs to kick off a four-goal period to take command of the contest. Hinostroza tucked a pretty drop pass to a trailing McNeill, who found Bickell for a wide-open one-time blast.
Rockford doubled the advantage to 2-0 five minutes later. Jonathan Carlsson saw his point shot knuckle off the end boards to Labrie, who deposited his 14th goal of the season under Thiessen at 6:49.
Then, the IceHogs put the contest out of reach with two more tallies just 42 seconds apart. Rockford took advantage of the lively end boards again to strike for its third tally at 12:08. While on a four-on-three power play, Ville Pokka fired a shot wide, which ricocheted to the stick of McNeill at the bottom of the left circle. McNeill made no mistake and buried his 16th goal of the season under the arm of Thiessen.
On the next shift, Matt Fraser snapped a shot off the goalpost from the high slot, and Kero slammed home the rebound at 12:50. The assist was Fraser’s first point in his first game as a member of the IceHogs.
Leighton capped a 16-save middle period with consecutive close-range stops on Oliver Bjorkstrand with just under two minutes to play to preserve his shutout bid.
Rockford’s netminder picked up where he left off in the third, laying down the right pad to deny Sonny Milano along the goal line just over a minute in. Leighton also made a huge stop on a follow-up opportunity by John Ramage with 15 minutes to play.
Labrie notched his second with 3:15 to play to make the score 5-0, and the IceHogs defense took care of the rest, denying quality scoring chances for the remainder of the game to preserve the record-setting shutout.
NEXT HOME GAME: Sunday, March 6 vs. Lake Erie at 7 p.m. Rockford and Lake Erie finish their head-to-head series at the BMO Harris Bank Center for Autism Awareness Night. Fans will have the chance to bid in a silent auction on individual player baskets at the main concourse to raise money for The Autism Program at Easter Seals. There also will be a post-game skate with the team following the conclusion of the game.