Chicago grabs the series opener with a 4-3 overtime victory in Rockford
Rockford, Ill. - The American Hockey League's much-hyped overtime format was on display Friday night in Rockford, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. After the dust settled from a frenzied extra frame, the Chicago Wolves emerged with a 4-3 comeback victory over the Rockford IceHogs in an Illinois Lottery Cup matchup in front of a packed BMO Harris Bank Center.
Chicago defenseman Brent Regner tipped home the game winner with 10.2 remaining in overtime to give the Wolves their first victory in three chances against the IceHogs. He almost didn't get the opportunity.
Rockford goalie Scott Darling punched a rebound all the way to the neutral zone, where it landed on the stick of Teuvo Teravainen who saw nothing in front of him except the Wolves net. Chicago netminder Matt Climie stymied the breakaway attempt, sending the play back the other direction with just enough time for Regner to redirect a shot from Dmitrij Jaskin. The assist on the game-winner was Jaskin's third of the night.
The back-and-forth finale was indicative of a thrilling extra frame that almost seemed as if it would go the distance at four men aside. The opening six-plus minutes was played at a breakneck pace with only one whistle before play reverted to 3-on-3 with 48.6 seconds remaining.
Chicago was able to force overtime in dramatic fashion as well. Trailing the IceHogs 3-2 and getting outplayed for much of the third period, the Wolves found the equalizer off of a Colin Fraser deflection with 1:06 left in regulation.
Before Fraser stole a potential regulation win away from his former team, it was up to Climie to keep the Wolves in the game. He rose to the challenge, finishing the game with 37 saves, including several big saves down the stretch when Chicago was shorthanded. The IceHogs were held scoreless on five power play opportunities, despite generating a handful of quality scoring chances.
Rockford scored their go-ahead goal to begin the third the same way Chicago scored their last pair - with a misdirection. Brandon Mashinter got a handle on a point shot from T.J. Brennan, which caromed off the right post and in to give the IceHogs a 3-2 lead at 6:22 of the third.
The IceHogs got off to a sluggish start in the opening frame as the Wolves were able to control the pace. Rockford committed a number of turnovers in their own end, none more costly than the first, which led to an early goal for Chicago. David Shields picked Ryan Hartman's pocket and quickly found Ty Rattie at the net-mouth, who one-touched it home to give the visitors a 1-0 lead just 1:49 into the game.
While the IceHogs looked a tad lethargic in the opening twenty, they came out buzzing in the second. Rockford turned the 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, thanks to some help from their newest players.
Defenseman Dillon Fournier, reassigned to the IceHogs Friday morning, notched his first AHL point with a secondary assist on Pierre-Cedric Labrie's game-tying goal. Fournier started the scoring play with a pass to Matt Carey, who made a 10-foot pass to Labrie inside the right circle. In one fluid motion, Labrie settled the pass and snapped one by Climie to make it 1-1 with his second of the year at 2:23 of the period.
Another Indy Fuel call-up gave Rockford the lead 5:36 later when Jamie Wise netted his first-career AHL goal in his AHL debut. Garret Ross delivered a pin-point pass to Wise cutting across the crease, who deftly moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand while off-balance to make it 2-1.
The lead did not make it to the end of the period, as the Wolves nabbed an equalizer at 13:30 of the second. A defensive breakdown found the IceHogs outnumbered in front of Darling, who made a couple saves but could not stop Harper. The Chicago forward tucked a loose puck over Darling's shoulder for his sixth of the year, sending the game into the third period at a 2-2 stalemate.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the IceHogs, dating back to a 2-1 defeat in Milwaukee on Nov. 15. Darling made 26 saves in a losing effort.
Rockford won't have to wait long to avenge Friday's defeat, as they meet Chicago again Saturday night in Rosemont to finish the home-and-home series. Face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from Allstate Arena.
Next Home Game: Saturday, Dec. 6 vs. Grand Rapids Griffins at 7 p.m. Bring a new or gently used stuffed animal to Saturday's contest for Teddy Bear Toss Night. All the furry critters can be thrown onto the ice after the IceHogs score their first goal of the game. The stuffed animals will then be collected and donated to local hospitals and charities.