Rockford, Ill.- Drew MacIntyre turned in a gem of a performance against his former team and became the third Rockford IceHogs goaltender to record a shutout this season as the IceHogs took a 1-0 victory over the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday night.
Mark McNeill became the first IceHogs player to reach the 20-goal plateau, and the IceHogs got their fourth consecutive win at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Despite a lack of scoring, the first period was not without excitement. Bryan Bickell laid two crushing hit on Checkers players early in the frame before dropping the gloves with Anthony Camara. Mike Liambas and Kyle Hagel engaged in another bout shortly after. Rockford and Charlotte each took five penalties while putting 10 shots apiece on the opposing net in the opening 20 minutes.
Each squad earned a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity in the first, but neither capitalized. On the IceHogs two-man advantage with 6:35 remaining in the period, Bickell rang a one-timer off the inside of the left goal post. MacIntyre finished off a period of spectacular saves four minutes later when he denied Justin Shugg in tight to keep the game scoreless.
The IceHogs picked up another 5-on-3 in the middle stanza, this time for a full two-minute power play, but again were unable to capitalize. The best chance for the home side came with just under two minutes to play when Vince Hinostroza found Matt Fraser up the middle through the neutral zone, whose forehand shot on a contested breakaway was just blockered aside by Daniel Altshuller.
Charlotte almost entered the second intermission with a one-goal lead following a Rockford turnover in the offensive zone. With under 10 seconds left on the clock in the second, Andrew Miller led a two-on-one, but a sliding Viktor Svedberg forced the right winger’s toe drag shot to bounce wide of the cage.
The IceHogs opened the third period with a flurry of shots but soon found themselves in penalty trouble. The penalty kill unit came up big, killing three penalties in under eight minutes before the Checkers took a too-many-men minor at 9:48.
While on the ensuing power play, Pierre-Cedric Labrie tapped a faceoff win back to Ville Pokka at the right point. Pokka blasted a low shot on Altshuller, and the rebound kicked right to the stick of McNeill, who buried the puck into the empty net at 10:34. The goal marked the 11th shot of the period for Rockford, while Charlotte mustered only one in the opening half of the frame despite its three power plays.
With just over five minutes to go in the game, Hinostroza and Bickell nearly combined to give the IceHogs a crucial insurance goal. The forwards bore down on Altshuller on a clean 2-on-0, but the Checkers goaltender made a sliding left leg save on Bickell’s one-time bid.
Derek Ryan almost forced overtime with under a minute to play in the game. The puck squirted free in the blue paint behind MacIntyre, but the Checkers leading scorer’s attempt to roof it ended up in the protective netting, and the IceHogs closed out the win.
MacIntyre stopped all 30 Checkers shots in his second home victory in as many starts while Altshuller saved 34 in defeat.
Rockford went 1-for-5 on the power play while stopping all seven Charlotte man advantages.
Next Home Game: Saturday, Mar. 19 vs. Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m. The IceHogs conclude a home-and-home series with the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Country Night presented by Dusty Boots Saloon. The band South 40 will be playing country music throughout the night.