|Photo Credit: Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs|
Rockford, IL. - The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliate) scored 4 goals in the first 15 minutes and never looked back en route to a 7-4 win over the visiting Texas Stars in front of 4,337 at BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday night. With the loss, Texas saw a three-game winning streak and eight-game road point streak come to an end
Moments after a disastrous power play opportunity of their own that set the tone for the game, that saw Texas almost give-up a shorthanded goal -twice - the Stars went on the kill and saw the IceHogs cash-in on their first power play when Lukas Reichel from the side of the net, tapped one in past Stars goalie Matt Jurusik just 3:22 into the game. Brett Connolly made it 2-0 less-than two minutes later on a shot from a sharp angle that Jurusik never tracked.
The tide seemed to turn just 14 seconds after Connolly’s goal when Yauheni Aksiantsiuk scored his second goal in as many games, getting the money-end of a 2-on-0 rush with Frederick Karlstrom to beat IceHog goalie Collin Delia to cut the IceHog lead to 2-1.
Two minutes later Evan Barratt answered Aksiantsiuk's tally with a goal of his own to make it 3-1, ending Jurusik's night just 7:24 into the game. Jurusik finished his night with 5 saves on the 8 shots he saw in his abbreviated appearance.
The goalie-change seemed to motivate the Stars, having been outshot 8-2 during Jurusik's time on the ice, Texas held Rockford without a shot for 7 minutes until Ryan Stanton lifted a backhander over the shoulder of Adam Scheel on the first shot that he saw, giving Rockford a commanding 4-1 lead.
The Stars got themselves back into the game with just under 2 minutes left in the period when Joel L’Esperance snapped one past Delia, cutting the IceHog lead to a manageable 4-2 as they headed to the first intermission. L'Esperance's goal, his team-leading 17th, gave him points in 5-of-his-last-6 games and 33 on the season.
After seeing 6 goals in the opening period, the teams settled in and played solid, competitive hockey for the majority of the second period until Rockford's Mike Hardman lit the lamp twice in quick succession in the last 5 minutes of the period, re-establishing a dominant lead at 6-2.
Texas got a chance to claw back into the game when they went on their fourth of 6 power plays on the night and Anthony Louis answered the call with just 11 seconds left in the frame, cutting the IceHog in half to 6-3 as they headed to the second intermission. Louis' goal, his 15th of the season - a career-high - was the Winfield, IL native's team-leading eighth power play goal of the '21-22 campaign.
Jerad Rosburg closed the gap to 6-4 just 5:35 into the third with his second goal of the season to make things interesting, however the period was mostly uneventful with Texas playing from a primarily controlling the pace of the frame with a 2-goal deficit and Rockford content to clear their zone and then dump-and-chase.
With just over 5 minutes left in the game and Rockford scrambling in their own end from Texas offensive pressure, the game notched-up a level. After a lengthy stay in the offensive zone and numerous shots, Rockford iced the puck twice due to the pressure and Texas pulled Scheel, down 2, just to take advantage of the gassed IceHog skaters. Just to notch things up, Rockford took a penalty for delay with 2:41 left in the game, giving the Stars hope as they went on a 6-on-4 advantage.
Par for the course for the night, just 8 seconds into the power play, Texas gave-up an empty net shorthanded goal to D.J. Busdeker to put an exclamation point on the 7-4 final.
With the loss, Texas falls to 17-19-5-4 (43 pts/.478%) and missed an opportunity to remain in a virtual tie for sixth in the 7-team Central Division. With the win, the IceHogs break a 3-game losing streak and improve to 22-19-3-1, good for fourth in the division.
The Stars and IceHogs complete their eight-game season series Sunday at 4:00 p.m at BMO Harris Bank Center. The game will be the third in 3 nights for Rockford.
Jurusik (started - 7:24)
Injuries, scratches and notes
Caamano (6th straight, day-to-day), Damiani (6th straight, day-to-day), Melnick (7th, day-to-day), Comeau (back/has not played) Tufte (to Dallas), Martin, Lipanov Khudobin
Tonight's attendance was 4,337