The Rockford IceHogs (8-14-1-0) fell to the Iowa Wild (12-10-4-0) despite outshooting their opponent and keeping the pressure on all night long on Friday.
Rockford came out swinging in the first period with their offense and their fists. Just 15 seconds in, Dmitry Osipov and Keaton Thompson dropped the mitts for a long battle that Osipov ultimately won. Shortly after, Chris Wilkie got the IceHogs on the board first after numerous chances for Rockford. It was the sixth straight game in which the Hogs scored first. On the play, Josiah Slavin earned the assist after Carson Gicewicz, a recent NCAA champion and the newest player making his AHL debut, got a shot that went just wide.
Iowa later tied the game on a crazy bounce, however. On a dump-in attempt, the puck deflected wildly, straying away from Rockford goalie Cale Morris. It went off the post and right to Gerry Mayhew, who slammed it home for the game-tying goal.
After some back-and-forth action between the two clubs, the IceHogs tallied their second goal during four-on-four play when captain Garrett Mitchell tipped home the go-ahead goal to make it 2-1 visitors. Before the period ended, the IceHogs had another chance to score, but the result was quite alarming.
While charging the net with the puck, Wilkie collided with goalie Dereck Baribeau and a small scrum ensued. As the officials were sorting out the play, Baribeau dropped his helmet and collapsed on the ice. He required assistance to reach the locker room and would be replaced for Hunter Jones. Wilkie received a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct. The score was 2-1 Rockford after the first with 4:19 of power play time carrying over for the Wild.
The middle frame saw Iowa take the lead on a pair of goals while the IceHogs struggling to catch a break. During the penalty time that carried over, Connor Dewar tied the game for the Wild just 1:30 into the frame. Also on that power play, Hogs’ forward DJ Busdeker was sprung loose on a breakaway and hit the post for the first of three pipe shots from Rockford in the period.
Later, another ringing shot haunted the Hogs. This time from Gicewicz, who was the trailer in a four-on-one rush. Iowa answered that momentum with a Brandon Duhaime goal that gave his team a 3-2 lead. His snipe from the circle beat Morris, who gave the initial rebound.
Rockford continued their strong offensive play when MacKenzie Entwistle delivered what would have been a highlight-reel tally as he dangled around multiple Wild defenders, but with Jones down, he lifted the puck right off the post. The second set of 20 would end with Iowa holding a 3-2 lead.
In the final period, Rockford kept the pressure on for what seemed to be the entirety, but Iowa’s defense came out ahead, not allowing their lead to diminish. The play remained chippy with multiple crowd-gathering events, but again, nothing that turned the tide for the IceHogs like it did in the first.
Rockford killed off a tripping minor with 3:16 remaining and then pulled Morris for the extra attacker with under a minute to go. Their suffocating offense blanketed the Wild in the last 30 seconds, but Jones stood tall to seal his team’s 3-2 victory. Final shot totals were in favor of the visitors 29-27, but ultimately, Iowa got the better of their guests.
Both clubs will have a quick turnaround and do it all over again Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. Puck drop is set for 6:00 PM CT. For the Wild, Baribeau’s status is uncertain, so their goalie situation may look a bit different in the second matchup.