Rockford, Ill. – Goaltender Michael Leighton began 2015 right where he left off as he shut down the Chicago Wolves, helping the Rockford IceHogs to a 3-0 victory at Allstate Arena on Saturday.
Leighton was a catalyst in Rockford’s last win and last contest of 2014 on Wednesday in Grand Rapids. Against the Wolves on Saturday night, the netminder turned away all 31 shots faced to earn his third shutout of the season and 39th during his AHL career. The feat has Leighton sitting in third in AHL history behind Gil Mayer (41) and Johnny Bower (45).
Rockford’s offense also opened the new year where it finished 2014 – firing lots of rubber at the opposition. Despite outshooting the Wolves 17-7 in the opening frame the game was scoreless until Mark McNeill put the IceHogs up 1-0 early in the second. Just 36 seconds into the middle period, Adam Clendening and Peter Regin traded passes before McNeill took the puck from his own zone, raced into Chicago’s end, and fired his 11th of the season past Matt Climie.
Statistically the Wolves have been the AHL’s best team in the second period, with a plus-16 goal differential going into the contest, but the IceHogs upped the ante to 2-0 just before the period was done. Climie blocked a Phillip Danault shot but defenseman Klas Dahlbeck joined the play and put home the rebound with 1:40 left in the stanza. The Hogs have now outscored the Wolves 5-0 in the middle frame over their past two meetings.
The script was flipped in the third period with Chicago opening the frame with an 11-0 shot advantage through the first 10 minutes as they tried to mount a comeback. Leighton was up to the task however, stopping all 18 Chicago shots in the final 20 minutes to seal the win for Rockford.
Garrett Ross added an empty-net tally with 1:15 left in his return to the lineup after missing the past six games due to injury.
Climie was saddled with a loss for Chicago despite a solid performance, stopping 35 of the 37 attempts he faced.
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.