Grand Rapids, Mich. – The Rockford IceHogs (1-2-0-0) notched their first win of the season as they scored two power play goals en route to a 2-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins (3-1-0-0) at the Van Andel Arena on Friday night. It was the first of three straight games for the IceHogs, as the team heads to the BMO Harris Bank Center for their Home Opener against Milwaukee on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The power play proved to be the difference in this contest, with the IceHogs capitalizing on both of their chances to finish 2-for-2 while holding the Griffins to 0-for-3 when up a skater. The decisive goal of the game was scored at 7:35 of the third, at the time putting Rockford up by a 2-0 score. After Ville Pokka lifted a puck high in the air from his own zone, Martin Lundberg tapped it free in the neutral zone and raced in on a breakaway to deposit his first North American tally.
Anthony Mantha, who entered the contest as the AHL's leading scorer, wasted little time striking back for Grand Rapids. Eric Tangradi banked a shot off the end wall and Matt Lorito knocked it right back towards the crease. Mantha was there to finish the effort at 9:53 in the third, setting up an exciting finish to the contest.
Rockford nearly took their first lead of the season five minutes into the contest. Spencer Abbott was able to dial up a wrist shot from the left wall, but after sneaking through heavy traffic in front of the net the puck rang off the left goalpost to keep the score knotted up at 0-0. The Griffins almost ended the first with an exclamation mark when Louis-Marc Aubry led a two-on-one chance and found Nick Jensen in front, but Lars Johansson slid across the crease to make the save.
The teams carried the 0-0 score into the second frame with Rockford holding a 10-8 advantage in shots on goal.
Abbott put the IceHogs on top at 8:28 of the middle stanza with his 50th career AHL goal. With the IceHogs on their first power play of the game, Erik Gustafsson took a pass in the high-slot from Tanner Kero, and bumped the puck quickly to Abbott on the left circle. Abbott blasted a shot past Jared Coreau to grab a 1-0 lead, which the IceHogs never relinquished.
Johansson earned his first win of the year for Rockford with 27 saves while Coreau suffered his loss with a 30 save performance.
Home Opener: Saturday, Oct. 22 vs. Milwaukee at 7 p.m. The IceHogs open their 18th season of professional hockey at the BMO Harris Bank Center with the first home game of the 2016-17 season. The first 5,000 fans to enter the arena will receive an IceHogs calendar compliments of BMO Harris Bank. For tickets visit IceHogs.com or call (815) 968-5222.