The Rockford IceHogs (10-15-1-0) defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins (12-9-3-0) on Saturday night.
It would be the first time fans occupied the seats of BMO Harris Bank Center in over 420 days. IceHogs’ season ticket holders were invited to the building to watch some of the Chicago Blackhawks’ future members.
The first period was an eventful one for the IceHogs and their fans. Rockford began the period on a 7-0 shot run, dominating play and buzzing around the ice. That momentum caused Grand Rapids to commit an infraction and the IceHogs made them pay.
Just six seconds into the man advantage, Brandon Pirri fired home the game’s first goal to make it 1-0. MacKenzie Entwistle and Dylan McLaughlin earned the assists. For Pirri, it extended his point streak to five games.
As the period went on, the Griffins gained their legs and began winning battles and moving the puck. Cody Franson was guilty of a high-sticking minor, but it would be Rockford that cashed in. Shorthanded, McLaughlin chipped the puck past a Grand Rapids defenseman and sniped his seventh goal of the season to double the Hogs’ lead at 2-0. That goal ties Chris Wilkie for the team lead in tallies for the Blackhawks’ affiliate.
Through 20 minutes, shots were 10-7 Rockford and Rockford goalie Ivan Nalimov was sound between the pipes.
The IceHogs kept the pressure on with ten total shots in the second frame. Six minutes in, Alec Regula tripled his team’s lead with a goal assisted by Dmitry Osipov and Michal Teply.
But this time around, Grand Rapids answered right back. On the ensuing faceoff, Taro Hirose netted the Griffins’ first goal of the game to make it 3-1 home squad.
No more goals were had in the remainder of the period despite a few power play chances for either team. The IceHogs maintained a lead in shots while allowing just four attempts from their opponent, totaling 20-11 after 40 minutes.
In the final 20 minutes, Grand Rapids brought the firepower to Nalimov and the IceHogs, but Rockford finished the job. In the middle parts of the frame, Dominic Turgeon finished a fleury of Griffins’ shots by tipping home his team’s second goal of the game to pull them within one at 3-2.
Much like the second, each club got a crack on the power play, but neither cashed in. As time was expiring, Grand Rapids pulled goalie Kevin Boyle for the extra attacker. The final ticks were spent in their offensive zone, but Nalimov made a few outstanding saves to maintain the lead for the IceHogs. A push out past the blue line sealed the win for Rockford, a 3-2 final inside BMO Harris Bank Center.
Surely, the fans returning to watch the IceHogs fueled the attack and victory. Head coach Derek King should be proud of how the team played tonight, as should the spectators who were buzzing all night long.
The IceHogs’ next game is this upcoming Friday against the Iowa Wild.
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