Saturday’s game provided two different storylines for the two Illinois-based AHL teams. The Wolves were coming off an opening night win against the rival Griffins and looking to begin the season 2-0. On the other hand, the IceHogs’ first game of the season was postponed, so Saturday’s contest marked their first game of the 2021 campaign.
The Wolves looked to keep their momentum going on Saturday afternoon, while an IceHogs victory would give Rockford the start they need for their 2021 season.
Early in the first period, Rockford found themselves on the power play and cashed in. John Quenneville carried the puck in from center ice and tucked home the first goal of the game. On that goal, Evan Barratt was credited with the assist, his first professional point in his first professional game.
Later in the period, the IceHogs took advantage of another power play opportunity when Chad Yetman sent one to the net that trickled in to extend their lead to 2–0. Barratt was involved as well as veteran defenseman Cody Franson and both recorded assists on the play.
With less than three minutes to go in the first, the Wolves lit the lamp twice to tie the game. Seth Jarvis struck first and shortly after Cavan Fitzgerald let the puck fly to beat goalie Matt Tomkins on the glove side. The score held at 2–2 after 20 minutes.
Rockford’s power play strength continued when Wyatt Kalynuk fired a one-time bomb that went post and in for his first professional goal.
It didn’t take long for the Wolves to answer, however. A fortuitous bounce off the end boards found Tanner Jeannot’s blade in front of the net to make it 3–3. During 4-on-4 play nearing the 11-minute mark, Chicago’s Jamieson Rees put forth a magnificent effort to beat Tomkins and give the Wolves a 4–3 advantage.
Fast forward to later in the period, a great defensive play by Wolves’ forward Rem Pitlick resulted in a breakaway opportunity that he capitalized on to extend his team’s lead to 5–3. That score would hold through the intermission after a penalty-ridden, score-crazed second period.
The first half of the period was somewhat uneventful until Tomkins made a sliding paddle save during a Wolves’ power play. Both teams had five opportunities with the man advantage up to that point, Rockford being 3-for-5 and Chicago being 1-for-5. Shortly after, the IceHogs pulled within one when Matej Chalupa fired home his first AHL goal to make it a 5–4 game.
Chicago’s Joey Keane took a penalty with just under two minutes remaining which gave Rockford a golden opportunity to tie the game. With the goalie pulled, Yetman just missed finding the back of the net for a game-tying goal. Instead, the puck rattled around the boards. Despite having the big guns on the sheet, the IceHogs couldn’t even the score. Time expired and the Wolves escaped with a 5–4 win.
Wolves – Ron Luce
The Wolves captured their first victory of the season Friday night and turned around less than 24 hours later to notch yet another victory. The game was a battle for the Wolves, as fatigue was apparent early in this game. The Wolves had moments where they looked like the team fans saw on Friday night, but playing two games in less than 24 hours certainly weighed on some of the players.
Seth Jarvis, Rem Pitlick, and Cavan Fitzgerald really stood out again. However, the play of the game goes to Jamieson Rees. His goal put the Wolves up 4–3 in the second period, giving his team the momentum they needed to take this game.
The youth on this Wolves team is exciting, and they’re going to continue putting on a show all season long.
IceHogs – Josh Barlog
It was refreshing to see IceHogs hockey again, and despite the loss, there were plenty of things to be happy about with Rockford’s first game in just under a year. Most notably, the play of Wyatt Kalynuk and Cody Franson on the back end stood out. Their defensive pairing was responsible for numerous offensive chances during even strength and on the power play.
Evan Barratt and Chad Yetman finding the scoresheet in their first professional hockey action made for a great start as well. John Quenneville also looks to be one of the IceHogs’ offensive weapons after he scored the first goal of the game.
Finally, Andrei Altybarmakyan displayed some skillfull skating and shooting ability despite not finding the back of the net. Head Coach Derek King should be happy with the way his team played on home ice even after coming away empty-handed. There will be discussions about the team’s defensive play, but there is plenty of time to fix mistakes and keep the puck out of their own net.