Houston, Tex.- The Rockford IceHogs hoped to put 2011 behind them and get off to a good start to kick-off the new year and got just that, defeating the Houston Aeros 4-1 at the Toyota Center in Houston on Friday night.
Ben Smith put the IceHogs on the board first as wristed in his ninth goal of the season. Houston netminder Matt Hackett kicked out a Jeremy Morin shot and Smith picked up the rebound and sent it to the back of the net to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead in the first period. Brandon Pirri also factored in on the play with an assist.
With time winding down in the first period, Houston evened the score at 14:31 in the opening frame. Nate Prosser ripped a shot from the blueline and Mike McKenzie tipped the puck past Alec Richards to tie the game at 1-1.
The IceHogs regained a 2-1 advantage as Peter LeBlanc finished off a perfect sequence of passes from Brett McLean and Rostislav Olesz. Olesz raced the puck into the Houston zone and dished the puck off for McLean to setup LeBlanc for his 11th goal of the campaign at 5:10 in the middle frame.
Brandon Bollig pushed the IceHogs lead to two goals as he made it 3-1 at 5:52 in the third period. Bollig picked up a Brian Connelly pass and beat Hackett for his second goal of the season.
Then, Houston pulled Hackett late in the game in favor of the extra attacker but Olesz picked up a loose puck and chipped in an empty net marker to give Rockford a 4-1 win.
The IceHogs held their opponents to just one goal for the first time in 2011-12. Richards picked up the win turning away 27 of the 28 shots he faced. Hackett was handed the loss stopping 27 IceHogs chances.
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 more than 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.
For every goal that the Rockford IceHogs score in 2011-12, IceHogs head coach Ted Dent will make a donation to children’s cancer research. BMO Harris Bank will also make a donation for every goal to the “BMO Harris Bank Goals For Grades”