The Rockford IceHogs (8-13-1-0) defeated the Chicago Wolves (15-4-0-2) in an exciting battle between the in-state rivals on Saturday night.
Hogs Strike First, Wolves Answer Twice
In the first period, Rockford came out swinging as they attempted to set the tone with quick play. Their efforts resulted in the game's first goal six minutes in when DJ Busdeker and Reese Johnson capitalized on a two-on-one break that ended with a glove-side tally from Johnson. This tally marked the fifth consecutive game in which Rockford has scored first, but the early lead wouldn't hold up for long.
The Wolves fought back with two goals in 35 seconds roughly eight minutes later. Rockford goalie Ivan Nalimov went to play the puck but lost his stick in the process, allowing the Wolves to maintain possession and Cole Smith to deflect home a five-hole goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Shortly after, Rockford's MacKenzie Entwistle sat for a minor infraction and the AHL's fourth-best power play took advantage quickly. On their first offensive zone draw, David Cotton fired home the go-ahead goal to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. This score would hold for the rest of the period despite a few chances for either team.
Middle Frame Fireworks
In the middle frame, the IceHogs showed their frustration on multiple occasions.
First, at the 9:03 mark, Johnson received not only an unsportsmanlike minor but also a ten-minute misconduct penalty that put him out of the second period. The second instance occurred at the 6:30 mark when IceHogs' captain Garrett Mitchell dropped the gloves with Wolves' tough guy Josh Healey. After the fisticuffs, Healey served his time, but Mitchell would head to the locker room to seek medical attention.
Shortly after, Rockford found a way to pound home the biscuit to tie the game. In the offensive zone, Busdeker put a puck on net that forced Wolves' goalie Connor Ingram to cough up a rebound, which Andrei Altybarmakyan sent into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the Hogs, Chicago was able to reclaim the lead just before the period ended. With 11 ticks left, Smith notched his second goal of the game off of a nifty pass, making it 3-2 Wolves after two.
Hogs Perservere and Prevail
In the final frame, the IceHogs maintained their composure and found a way to win. Mitchell was the spark again, dropping the gloves for the second time in the game, this time with Cavan Fitzgerald. Because it was his second fighting major, he received a game misconduct.
Ingram denied several IceHogs chances until the desperation kicked in for Rockford. With 2:07 remaining on the clock and an empty net for Rockford, Entwistle maneuvered around defenders in the offensive zone and banked home the game-tying goal. On the play, veteran defenseman Cody Franson tallied his 400th professional point with an assist. The clock eventually wound down and overtime was next.
Rockford controlled play throughout the extra frame as the shot totals favored the home team 5-2 and Chicago's chances were quiet at best. However, Ingram stopped everything as well, sending the game to a shootout.
If you blinked, you missed the final events. The Hogs went with Tim Soderlund and Brandon Pirri, both of whom scored on Ingram. On the other end, Nalimov took care of both Chicago shooters to give Rockford a 4-3 win and the KHL transfer his first AHL victory.
The Hogs showed excellent resiliency against the Central Division-leading Wolves, who, because of some COVID restrictions, had a lack of practice time leading up to this contest. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining affair at BMO Harris Bank Center. Both clubs will do it all over again on Wednesday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM CT.