The Rockford IceHogs (8-13-1-0) defeated the Chicago Wolves (15-4-0-2) on Saturday night in a thrilling game between two local rivals.
Rockford came out of the locker room in good form in the first half and tried to set the tone by playing fast. Their efforts led to the first goal of the game six minutes into the game when DJ Busdeker and Reese Johnson took advantage of a two-on-one breakaway that ended with Johnson firing the ball away. It was the fifth consecutive game that Rockford scored the first goal, but the lead didn’t last long.
The Wolves responded with two goals in a span of 35 seconds, about eight minutes into the game. Rockford goalie Ivan Nalimov tried to play the puck, but lost his stick later in the game, giving the Wolves possession of the puck and Cole Smith scored a deflected goal to make it 1-1.
Shortly thereafter, Rockford’s Entwistle McKenzie sat on the bench for a minor foul, and the AHL’s fourth-best player quickly took advantage. David Cotton scored the first goal in the offensive zone to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. That would be the score for the rest of the period, although both teams had several chances.
In the middle frame, the Ice Hogs repeatedly showed their frustration.
First, Johnson not only received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 9:03, but also a 10-minute penalty that took him out of the second period. The second scene took place at 6:30 p.m. when IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell clinched with Wolves fighter Josh Healy. While Healy bided his time after the scrimmage, Mitchell went to the locker room to see a doctor.
Soon after, Rockford found a way to hit the cookie home and tie the game. Busdeker took the puck into the offensive zone and forced Wolves goalie Connor Ingram to grab a rebound, which Andrei Altybarmakian put in the net.
Unfortunately for the Hogs, Chicago was able to regain the lead just before the end of the period. With eleven ticks to go Smith scored his second goal of the game with an excellent pass to make it 3-2 Wolves with two minutes to play.
In the final, the Ice Hogs kept their cool and found a way to win. Mitchell made his presence felt again by dropping the gloves for the second time in the match, this time with Kavan Fitzgerald. Since this was his second fight, he landed a game-changing blow.
Ingram held off the IceHogs multiple chances until Rockford’s desperation struck. With 2:07 to play and an empty net in front of Rockford, Entwistle bypassed defenders in the offensive zone and scored in his own goal. In that game, veteran Cody Franson scored his 400th goal. Professional point with a helper. Eventually, the hours ran out and overtime had to be worked.
Rockford controlled the game throughout the extension, with a final score of 5-2 in favor of the hosts, and Chicago’s chances were slim at best. But Ingram put a stop to it and sent the game into a shootout.
If you blinked, you missed the recent events. The Hogs selected Tim Soderlund and Brandon Pirri, who both faced Ingram. On the other end, Nalimov took both of Chicago’s shooters to task to give Rockford a 4-3 victory and their first AHL win.
The Hogs put on an outstanding performance against the Central Division Wolves leaders, who did not have enough time to practice due to some restrictions imposed by COWIDA prior to this game. Still, it was an entertaining event at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Both clubs will again give everything on Wednesday night. Face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. local time.
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