12/06/2014 1:00 PM
Photo by Mark Newman
Griffins spoil Rockford's Teddy Bear Toss Night with 4-0 shutout victory
Rockford, Ill- A healthy crowd of 5,349 filled the BMO Harris Bank Center eager to participate in the Rockford IceHogs' annual Teddy Bear Toss night. However, a suffocating display of defense by the Grand Rapids Griffins (10-9-2-0) kept all the stuffed critters in the stands, as the IceHogs (16-6-1-1) were shutout 4-0 on Saturday night.
The visiting Griffins took an early lead and shut the door the rest of the way, using 31 saves from Jared Coreau and a myriad of blocked shots to blank the IceHogs for the first time on home ice since a similar 4-0 loss to the Peoria Rivermen on March 16, 2013.
Coreau made several timely saves to pick up his second win in as many starts, especially when Rockford was pressing in a third period where they outshot Grand Rapids 11 to 4. But the netminder had plenty of help, as the Griffins were able to stifle the IceHogs offense throughout the night, clogging up passing and shooting lanes keeping them from establishing any rhythm on the attack.
Both teams got their chances in the opening period but it was the Griffins who left with a 2-0 lead. After a couple key saves by Coreau, including an impressive glove save on Kyle Cumiskey, Grand Rapids grabbed the game's first goal just over the halfway point of the period. After a turnover behind the Rockford cage, Michael Leighton made a stunning glove save on Mark Zengerle, but lost the handle on the rebound. The loose puck landed right on the stick of Kevin Porter at the net mouth, who tapped it home at 11:17.
It appeared that the score would remain 1-0 heading into the first break, but the Griffins were able to turn a late defensive-zone draw into a two-goal lead. Andreas Athanasiou and linemate Anthony Mantha sprung off the face-off dot, beating the IceHogs defense and creating a 2-0 rush from center-ice in. A late pass by Mantha got Leighton moving, who had no chance on the Athanasiou one-timer, which found the net with nine seconds remaining in the first.
The Griffins made Rockford pay dearly for a couple of second-period penalties, when the visitors converted on a 5-on-3 advantage to extend their lead to three. With Garret Ross and Dennis Rasmussen both in the box, it only took the Grand Rapids power play 16 seconds to find the net. Andy Miele made a pinpoint pass from behind the cage to a waiting Mantha, who grabbed his third of the year at the 6:59 mark.
The second period goal was the only goal scored on special teams, as Rockford's power play came up empty in five chances, while giving up one goal in the five opportunities faced.
In a last-ditch effort to coax some scoring out of his squad, Head Coach Ted Dent pulled Leighton with nearly four minutes left in regulation. The ploy was unsuccessful as Landon Ferraro chipped in an empty-net tally from his own zone to cap off the scoring.
Leighton was tagged with his fourth loss of the season, stopping 29 of 32 shots.
The Teddy Bear Toss still took place at the game's conclusion, as the IceHogs collected 2,259 stuffed animals, all which will be donated to local charities.
Next Home Game: Sunday, Dec. 7, vs. Lake Erie Monsters: Game starts at 4 p.m. The IceHogs celebrate Pucks and Paws as they host Lake Erie. Local animal shelters will be on hand, so fans can visit pets which are up for adoption, as well as take home treats for any animals back at home.