Rockford, Ill.- For the second night in a row, the Rockford IceHogs mounted a comeback that fell short of a win. But Friday night at least saw Rockford escape with a point, as the IceHogs fell 4-3 to the Charlotte Checkers in a shootout at the BMO Harris Bank Center in front of a crowd of 5,728 fans.
The game tying goal came off the stick of Peter LeBlanc late in the second period. Down 3-2 in the middle frame, Ben Smith fed LeBlanc a pass from the left side of the Checkers goal, and LeBlanc flipped the puck over Mike Murphy and into the net to tie the game at the 17:24 mark.
After a scoreless third period and overtime, the IceHogs played in a shootout for the fifth time this season. Chris Terry, Justin Krueger and Cedric McNicoll all tallied for the Checkers in the shootout, while Murphy stopped shots from Byron Froese, Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin to grab the victory for Charlotte.
Brian Connelly got the IceHogs on the board at 5:21 of the opening frame. Rockford had the extra attacker on during a delayed penalty call, and Connelly ripped his fourth goal of the season past Murphy to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.
Charlotte, though, came right back just 36 seconds later to knot the game at 1-1. Zach Boychuk led a two-on-one with Matthew Pistilli into the Rockford zone, and Pistilli beat Richards with a one-timer from Boychuk.
Charlotte took a 2-1 advantage at the 8:12 mark in the first period. Richards struggled to cover the puck during a big scramble in front of the IceHogs goal, and Chris Terry was able to sneak it behind the Rockford netminder to give the Checkers a one goal lead.
Jerome Samson increased Charlotte’s lead to 3-1 with five minutes left in the opening frame, firing a hard snapshot from the blue line and past Richards at 15:02.
But Rockford came back to make it a one goal game before the period expired. Andrew Shaw was stationed in front of the Checkers net and redirected a Dylan Olsen shot behind Murphy to cut Charlotte’s lead to 3-2 at 17:37 of the first.
Rockford was 0-for-4 on the man advantage and Charlotte failed to tally on three power play chances.
Richards was tagged with the loss after turning away 31 Charlotte shots, while Murphy made 26 saves to earn the win.
Next Home Game: Monday, Jan. 16 vs. Texas Stars. Game time is 1:05 p.m. The IceHogs return home for the first time in over two weeks for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. matinee game to take on the Stars for the second and final time at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The first 1,500 kids 14 and under will pick up an IceHogs Drawstring Bag courtesy of Frito Lay.