Eight game skid against Admirals broken with 3-2 victory
Rockford, Ill. - The final buzzer at the BMO Harris Bank Center not only signified the end of a hockey game, it also indicated an achievement the Rockford IceHogs hadn't enjoyed in a while. With a thrilling 3-2 victory on Saturday night, the IceHogs (13-4-0-1) put to rest an eight-game losing streak to the Milwaukee Admirals (11-4-0-0) dating back to February of last season.
While the IceHogs narrowly fell short in each of the first three meetings with neighboring Milwaukee this season, they used a great game from their special teams to finally get over the proverbial hump. A pair of power play goals helped Rockford gain a lead, and a few massive penalty kills helped hold on to it, as the IceHogs grabbed their third-straight win and second in as many nights. The victory was Rockford's first against the Admirals since a 4-1 home win on Feb. 22, 2014.
The Rockford power play unit, which came into the game operating at an anaemic 2-for-25 at home, delivered the game's first goal and the game-winner, finishing 2-for-5 on the night. The IceHogs were arguably stronger shorthanded, killing all four Admiral opportunities faced.
Rockford's second goal with the extra man put an exclamation point on what was a wild second period, where both teams traded goals, fights, and a healthy serving of animosity. Defenseman T.J. Brennan continued his impressive stretch of play, finishing on a 3-on-2 rush while the Admirals' Miikka Salomaki watched from the penalty box. With the game-winner, Brennan now has points in nine of his last ten games (3g-9a).
Brennan's goal came when Milwaukee had most of the game's momentum after rallying from a 2-0 deficit with goals from Garrett Noonan and Brendan Leipsic in the middle part of the second. Noonan got the Admirals on the board at the 7:10 mark when he converted a feed from Anthony Bitetto. Just over six minutes later Milwaukee struck again when Leipsic grabbed his first of the year, finishing off an odd-man rush with Salomaki and Taylor Aronson.
The second-period markers were the only blemishes on what was a strong outing from Scott Darling. The IceHogs goaltender turned aside a season-high 38 saves to grab his seventh win of the season. Darling was at his best when his defense was at their worst, making a couple of huge saves on turnovers, including a pad save on a Pontus Åberg breakaway in the second period.
Rockford was able to quickly double the 1-0 lead they brought into the second period when Dennis Rasmussen beat Marek Mazanec 3:26 into the frame. After a Zach Miskovic blast resulted in a juicy rebound on to Mazanec's right, Rasmussen was able to corral home his fourth of the year to give the IceHogs a 2-0 lead.
As what could be expected with two teams playing each other for the fourth time in seven weeks, the IceHogs and Admirals wasted no time testing the waters in a wide-open first period. Both sides enjoyed their fair share of offensive pressure, but the only goal in the first 20 minutes came off the stick of Rockford defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. With Åberg off for interference, the IceHogs found Cumiskey wide open at the point, who blasted one off the right post to give Rockford the 1-0 lead at the 8:49 mark.
Another by-product of the recent familiarity between the two squads was the game's physical tone, which manifested with 50 combined penalty minutes. A pair of second-period scraps added fuel to the fire building between the IceHogs and Admirals, who will meet eight more times this season. Once again Ryan Schnell provided a spark for Rockford, padding an assist with a fight against Michael Liambis at center ice. A second bout between Stephen Johns and Rich Clune soon followed.
The IceHogs now set their sights on a weekend sweep as they make their first visit to Allstate Arena tomorrow afternoon to take on the Chicago Wolves. Rockford won the only prior Illinois Lottery Cup matchup this season, defeating the Wolves 4-3 at the BMO on Oct. 25.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, November 26 vs. Iowa Wild. Puck drop is 7 p.m. The IceHogs join forces with the Brovember Beard-A-Thon to try and set a World Record for the most mustached in one building after Rockford’s matchup with Iowa. Along with the world record attempt, the IceHogs will be wearing specialty Brovember jerseys to commemorate men’s health awareness.