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By: Fritz Stillings
Photo by Greg Hamil

Rockford nabs 4-3 victory in final showdown with Grand Rapids

Rockford, Ill. – Seeking their season-high fourth straight victory, and in their first matchup against the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins since the bench-clearing altercation on Jan. 19, the Rockford IceHogs hung on and topped the Griffins 4-3 at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday evening.

The two squads averaged 91.7 combined penalty minutes per game in their first seven meetings, but Friday night the calls were limited as six total infractions were called for 12 penalty minutes.

Grand Rapids opened the scoring just 2:22 into the first period. An errant pass from Carter Hutton behind the net went right to Tomas Jurco who poked the puck into the open net to snag the 1-0 lead.

However, Rockford came back five minutes later with a goal from Jimmy Hayes. A shot from Martin St. Pierre was deflected by Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek, but Hayes was there to crash the net and slip the puck into the back of the net while falling to even the score at 1-1.

In the closing minute of the first period, Mathieu Beaudoin lifted the Hogs into the lead as the forward ripped a shot from the right faceoff circle and past Mrazek to give Rockford the 2-1 advantage. The tally marked Beaudoin’s first in an IceHogs sweater.

At the 2:22 mark of the middle frame, and just one second after Rockford killed off the third Griffins man-advantage, Francis Pare picked up a pass from Riley Sheahan in front of the net and tallied on a diving effort to even the contest at 2-2.

But the tie lasted for just 24 seconds, as Hayes potted his second goal of the game on a pass from Jeremy Morin. Morin fought through a check along the boards and fired in a shot off Mrazek’s pads before Hayes picked up the rebound and slammed it home. It marked Morin’s second assist on the night, giving him his ninth multi-point game of the season.

Grand Rapids was called for too many men on the ice with 12 seconds remaining in the second period, and Brandon Pirri swiped in a Kyle Beach rebound with just 0.1 seconds left on the clock to bump Rockford’s lead up to 4-2 heading into the third period.

Pirri’s insurance tally became vital midway through the third period. At the 12:10 mark, Max Nicastro fired a shot off the far post causing Hutton to scramble for the rebound. Pare was on the doorstep and netted the Griffins’ third and final goal as the Hogs defense managed to hold on to grab the 4-3 victory.

Rockford fired 35 shots on Mrazek while Hutton turned away 28 Griffins shot attempts. The Hogs were successful on one of three power play attempts, while the Hogs penalty kill unit was perfect, dismissing all three Grand Rapids man advantages.

Next Home Game: Friday, March 1 vs. Peoria Rivermen. Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m. Rockford and Peoria meet for an eighth time this season. The first 1,500 fans to the game will pick up a Hogs Nation T-shirt courtesy of Anderson Toyota.

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