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By: Chris Etheridge
Photo by Ross Dettman

IceHogs learn playoff opponent after Houston/San Antonio game Sunday

Rosemont, Ill.- The Chicago Wolves posted four goals in the first period and the IceHogs could not pull themselves out of the hole as Rockford’s closest rival beat them 5-2 in the 2008-09 regular season finale.

The Wolves took advantage of a couple of early penalties to take a 2-0 lead.  Defenseman Mike Brennan was whistled for an interference call at 1:50 into the first period and on the same call Sean McMorrow was sent to the box on a double minor for an attempted head butting.

“They came out strong and wanted to go out with a bang in front of a sold out building,” said defenseman Brian Connelly. “We took a couple of unfortunate penalties and they put a couple of goals in and they just kept rolling with that.  Before we knew it, we were down 4-0.”

On the ensuing 5-on-3 power play, Chad Denny picked the corner of the net at 3:39 with helpers from Steve Martins and Brett Sterling.

Then just 1:42 later, Martins solved Antti Niemi with helpers from
Sterling and Joe Motzko on a man advantage to give the Wolves a two-goal lead.
Clay Wilson snuck a goal in at 11:01 to give the Wolves a 3-0 lead from a feed by Spencer Machacek.  Grant Stevenson also had an assist.

Stevenson took his turn on the power-play at 19:18 unassisted when he picked off a pass and worked around Niemi to put
Chicago's fourth goal of the period on the board.

“We gave some of the older guys some rest before the playoffs,” said Connelly. “But I thought we played well in the last two periods to move the puck and our feet to get a jump going into the playoffs.”

In the second frame,
Sterling jumped on the band wagon for his 18th goal of the season with assists from Denny and Martins on the power play at 14:51.

“This wasn’t a throw-away game,” Connelly said. “But the emotions weren’t there like last night and going into the playoffs we wanted to put a couple of periods together where we weren’t playing confident hockey and playing as a group.”

But Rockford's Akim Aliu ended Brent Krahn's shutout bid at 17:32 with assists from Tyler Mosienko and Adam Hobson to make the score 5-1 to end the middle period.

“It’s nice to get one in the last game of the season,” Aliu said. “This is something I’m going to remember.  I think today was one of my better games.  I thought I had a couple of opportunities and it was nice to be able to capitalize later in the game.”

The goal was Aliu's first professional goal in his seventh career game.

The young winger doubled his career point total with a marker on a 5-on-3 at 1:45 in the third period with helpers from Mosienko and Connelly to make the score 5-2.  Aliu took a feed from Mosienko in front of the net and drove it over Krahn's outstretched leg.

Niemi had 41 saves in the losing effort compared to Brent Krahn’s 33.  Special teams again haunted the IceHogs, with a 4-for-8 showing on the penalty kill and 1-for-5 on the power play.

Playoff tickets:  The Rockford IceHogs are in the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs. Pick up tickets for the first two games by calling (815) 968-5222 or stop by the Rockford MetroCentre Box Office or Hogs Headquarters at Cherryvale Mall. Schedule, times, dates and opponent to be determined.

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