Rockford, Ill. - Goaltender Michael Leighton tied the all-time AHL shutout record with his 45th career perfect performance in the Rockford IceHogs 6-0 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Friday night.
Mark McNeill extended his point streak to a season-best eight games, and Vince Hinostroza added a pair of tallies to up his goal totals to six in as many contests.
Sitting on a five-goal cushion, Leighton found himself forced to make several big stops midway through the third period. Eriah Hayes teamed up with Zach O’Brien on a two-on-one rush 11 minutes into the final frame, but the IceHogs goaltender turned away the shot with his left shoulder. Leighton repeated his efforts just a minute later, stoning Jeremy Welsh twice down low to preserve the clean sheet.
The most threatening chances came with under eight minutes to play. After Kirill Gotovets slid to block Scooter Vaughan’s shot, the Wolves had an open cage but Leighton stretched out the paddle of his stick to deny a sure goal just as a fight broke out behind him. Rockford faced their eighth penalty kill of the night following the ten-bell save, but the unit stayed strong to keep the Wolves power play off the board.
Hinostroza notched his third point of the night and ninth in six games on the IceHogs only power play of the third. Ville Pokka saw his shot blocked right to Hinostroza, who pumped a cross-ice feed through the box to Tanner Kero. Kero beat Pheonix Copley low to the blocker side at 15:09 to make the score 6-0.
The IceHogs faced one final man advantage in the closing minutes following a cross-checking minor to Marko Dano, but Leighton and the penalty killing unit preserved the record-tying shutout, earning a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 5,981 in the waning seconds.
Rockford got all the offense it needed in the opening frame. Hinostroza opened the scoring for the fourth time of the eight-game homestand at 6:09 of the first, picking off a pass between the Wolves defensemen before deking to his forehand and tucking the puck past Jordan Binnington.
While on the power play, the IceHogs conceded a breakaway chance to O’Brien, but Leighton stoned the winger and covered the puck. As the man advantage expired, Pierre-Cedric Labrie ripped a slap shot over the cage, which rebounded off the end glass to the waiting stick of Dano, who deposited his third goal of the season at 11:45.
Rockford’s blueliners added a pair of goals in quick succession in the final two minutes of the period. Cameron Schilling beat Binnington at 18:01 off a faceoff win by Mark McNeill for his second in as many games to make the score 3-0. With 31 seconds left in the period, Kirill Gotovets potted his second of the season with a long wrister from the point to cap the flurry and extend the lead to four goals.
The IceHogs penalty killing unit followed up a three-for-three performance in the opening stanza by denying the Wolves power play on four separate opportunities in the second period.
Despite Copley replacing Binnington to start the second period, Rockford still found ways to add to their goal totals. Halfway through the middle frame, Bryan Bickell tipped a Chicago outlet pass, which bounced to the middle of the ice. Hinostroza collected the loose puck before going back to his forehand to pick up his second goal of the evening and make the score 5-0.
Rockford went two-for-five on the power play while stopping all nine Chicago man advantages.
Leighton turned away 20 shots in the shutout, his fourth of the season, while Copley and Binnington combined for 17 saves on 23 shots.
Next Home Game: Friday, Feb. 5 vs. Grand Rapids Griffins at 7 p.m. The IceHogs return from the AHL All Star break with the first game in a home-and-home weekend series against the Griffins. It's "White Out" night at the BMO Harris Bank Center as fans are encouraged to wear white while the first 2,500 fans through the doors will receive a white IceHogs t-shirt courtesy of Toyota.