03/15/2015 5:50 PM
Photo by Ross Dettman
Chicago, Ill. – After a strong second period gave them a lead the Rockford IceHogs (34-19-5-2) fended off a late challenge from the Chicago Wolves (29-24-6-1) to win 4-3 and claim the Illinois Lottery Cup on Sunday at Allstate Arena.
The IceHogs took control of a scoreless game in the second period when they received tallies from Brandon Mashinter, Spencer Abbott and Ryan Hartman. The first came just after an IceHogs power play at 11:23 when Mashinter redirected a shot from Ville Pokka at the blueline to make it 1-0.
Then, a strong individual play by Spencer Abbott pushed the Hogs’ lead to 2-0. Abbott picked off a Wolves pass in the offensive zone, danced around two Wolves defenders before roofing his ninth goal of the campaign at 17:27.
Hartman capped off the impressive period for Rockford when he bumped the score up to 3-0 with his ninth goal of the season with 1:14 remaining in the stanza. The IceHogs outshot Chicago 14-2 during the period and didn’t allow a Wolves shot on goal until there was 4:12 left on the clock.
Chicago wouldn’t go quietly however as they began to claw back in the game’s final 20 led by their leading scorer, Shane Harper. Harper got the Wolves on the board and ended Antti Raanta’s shutout bid at the 7:46 mark in the frame to make it a 3-1 game.
With time winding down and an extra attacker on for Chicago, the IceHogs were able to add what turned out to be an important empty-netter with under two minutes to play in regulation. Mark McNeill dumped the puck into the open net for his 17th of the season with help from Peter Regin and Mashinter, pushing the lead to 4-1. The helper for Regin extended his point streak to five straight games with five points (2g-3a) during the hot stretch.
The goal wasn’t the end for Chicago though, as a late penalty gave them life and they made it interesting with two goals in the last minute of play. Again Chicago went in favor of the extra attacked, this time on the man advantage, and cashed in with 46 seconds left when Adam Cracknell ripped a one-timer past Raanta. Then, playing 6-on-5, Harper slipped in his second of the game with 31 seconds remaining to bring Chicago within one.
Raanta held strong in the waning seconds to secure the victory and to stay unbeaten (3-0-1) during his brief time with Rockford this season. The netminder finished the game with 26 saves on 29 chances.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, March 18 vs. Adirondack Flames. Game starts at 7 p.m. The IceHogs meet up with the Flames for the first time since October during a WXRX Dollar Day at the BMO. Fans can enjoy one dollar hot dogs, sodas, beers and companion tickets throughout the night. The matchup is the first of three in 10 days between Rockford and Adirondack.