IceHogs win their third-straight with 2-1 triumph over San Antonio
Rockford, Ill. - Coming into Week 19 of the American Hockey League season, the Rockford IceHogs knew they were in for a significant challenge. It was a test that they passed with flying colors, as the IceHogs (29-16-4-2) completed a three-game sweep of the West's best with a 2-1 victory over the San Antonio Rampage (28-18-4-0) Sunday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
On the heels of downing division leaders Milwaukee and Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, Rockford won their third straight by breaking a third-period tie against the team just behind them in the Western Conference standings. Cody Bass picked up the go-ahead goal, with some help from one of the newest IceHogs.
Forward Dane Walters, playing in his third game in a Rockford uniform, got the game-winning play started when he made a strong play with the puck, barreling down the left wing and curling behind the San Antonio net. The rookie's wrap-around attempt found the skate of Bass just off the right post, bouncing behind Rampage goaltender Dan Ellis with 10:07 left in regulation time.
The goal was the second of the season, and the second in three games for Bass, who made his return from serving a two-game suspension. Walters picked up his first-career AHL point with his assist, highlighting a whirlwind week for the Saint Paul, Minn. native who signed a pro tryout agreement with the IceHogs on Tuesday.
With the win, Rockford solidified their position in fourth place in the Western Conference, padding the gap between themselves (64 points) and the Rampage and Grand Rapids Griffins, who are tied for fifth with 60 points. The IceHogs remain just a point back from the Midwest Division-leading Admirals, who defeated Lake Erie Sunday.
To hang on to its current spot in the standings, Rockford had to outlast San Antonio in what was a competitive, air-tight affair. With the Rampage representing the AHL's top scoring offense, and the IceHogs being the league's highest average shot producers, nobody would have been surprised if Sunday afternoon turned into a track meet at the BMO.
Instead, each side played a controlled, defensively sound game that only resulted in three goals total and two minor penalties. Scott Darling was steady in net for Rockford, picking up his second straight win, stopping 29 of 30 shots faced. The IceHogs only allowed three goals in their three victories this weekend, with Darling and Michael Leighton combining to post a .963 save percentage.
Ellis played strong in defeat, making 29 saves for the Rampage.
The forward unit of Peter Regin, Brandon Mashinter and Pierre-Cedric Labrie was a driving force behind Rockford's win last night over the Barons, and the three picked up right where they left off as Sunday got underway. After combining for two goals and a +6 rating against Oklahoma City, the line gave Rockford a 1-0 lead 5:20 into the game with a perfectly executed forecheck.
Entering the San Antonio zone with Labrie, Regin chipped the puck behind the corner, beat his defender to the dump-in, and laid out a perfect pass to Mashinter between the circles. A deadly-accurate placed shot inside the left post gave Mashinter his 10th goal of the season and second in less than 24 hours at the BMO. Ville Pokka picked up a secondary assist, giving the young defenseman his sixth point in his last four games (1g-5a).
The Rampage staged a push-back in the second period, tying the game thanks to the AHL's leading rookie scorer. Connor Brickley found a loose rebound in the slot and flicked it behind Darling, netting his 17th goal of the season at 6:42 of the frame. After gaining the zone off of a face-off, a Greg Zanon point shot handcuffed Darling just enough to create the second-chance opportunity for Brickley. Mark Mancari added an assist on the play, getting the first whack at the puck.
San Antonio, in the midst of an 11-game road trip, will return to the BMO Wednesday morning as the two teams close out their season series. The IceHogs will be looking for the four-game sweep of the Rampage as they host their annual school day game, with an opening face-off scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, Feb. 18 vs. San Antonio Rampage. Puck drops at 10:30 a.m. It’s an early wake-up call for the IceHogs and Rampage as the two square off in the annual school day game at the BMO.