Rockford, Ill. – As the calendar flips to 2015 the Rockford IceHogs will work with a clean slate as they put an end to a three game winless streak on the road with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins.
After a first period that saw the IceHogs dominate the shot chart 25-6 but fall behind 1-0, Grand Rapids added another goal to begin the second period. The Griffins used the same combination as on their first goal to extend the lead to 2-0. Andy Miele finished off a two-on-one and fired in his 11th goal of the season, receiving the pass from Griffins leading scoring Teemu Pulkkinen.
Later in the second Rockford finally started to turn the chances into goals however as they mounted a comeback bid. With the IceHogs on a power play Ryan Hartman sent a centering pass for Matt Carey to one-time past Griffins goaltender Jared Coreau at 8:15 in the second period.
Just under two minutes later it was Hartman who tied the game up at 2-2. Defenseman T.J. Brennan wound up from the blueline and ripped a pass that Hartman put a stick on and tapped it to the back of the net at 10:05 in the second period.
The rest of the game belonged to the goaltenders, who took over with each making timely saves over and over again to keep the contest locked up. Despite seeing much of the action on the other end Michael Leighton was stellar down the stretch and again in overtime as he turned away two breakaway chances in the extra session to force a shootout.
After Leighton denied each of the Grand Rapids’ shooters in the skills competition, Peter Regin made a nifty move and slipped the puck past Coreau in the third round of the shootout to complete Rockford’s comeback.
The win for Rockford is the team’s 20th of the season and they will enter the new year atop the Midwest Division. Leighton earned his eighth win of the season, stopping 23 shots and all three shooters in the shootout. Coreau was tagged with the loss despite turning away 26 chances, including 25 in the first period after the IceHogs matched an AHL-era record for most shots in a period.
It didn’t take long for the Griffins to jump out to an early 1-0 lead in the game. Pulkkinen finished off a pass from Miele to score just 34 seconds into the contest. The tally for Pulkkinen gives him an AHL-best 18 on the year and goals in six straight games for Grand Rapids.
Next Home Game: Friday, January 9 vs. Milwaukee Admirals. Game begins at 7 p.m. Rockford begins their 2015 home slate with a Midwest Division rivalry game against the Milwaukee Admirals at the BMO. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will take home an IceHogs fleece blanket thanks to OSF. Those 21-and-over can arrive early for another Blues Flame Lounge Pre-Game Party, and enjoy live music, drink specials and free appetizers. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.