04/14/2015 9:24 PM
Photo by Greg Hamil
Rockford, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs (45-22-5-2) continued their offensive explosion as they filled the back of the opponent's net at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Wednesday. With a 5-1 victory over the Charlotte Checkers (30-37-6-1), the IceHogs bumped their current home winning streak to eight games while registering 38 goals on home ice during that stretch.
As the IceHogs and Checkers concluded their season series at the BMO on Wednesday night where the Hogs also set an AHL era record with their 45th win of the 2014-15 campaign, just three shy of a franchise best (48) which was established twice during the 2006-07 and 2005-06 seasons.
It looked as if the contest between the two squads wasn't going to start well for the home team. Following the first whistle of the tilt, Mark McNeill was sent to the penalty box for a tripping minor just 25 seconds in. Despite being down a man, it was the IceHogs who cashed in shorthanded as Phillip Danault netted his 13th goal and team-best third shorthanded tally of the campaign just 1:53 into the opening period.
Danault intercepted a puck off the side of a Checkers skate in the IceHogs defensive zone and raced in all alone towards the Checkers goaltender, John Muse. The Victoriaville, Quebec native slipped the puck over the outstretched blocker of the netminder, giving the IceHogs an early 1-0 lead.
The IceHogs held the Checkers to just four shots in the opening period and carried the lead into the locker room before adding three more markers in the middle frame to take complete control of the contest.
Just like the Danault tally early in the first frame, McNeill found the scoresheet 70 seconds into the period. Skating on a two-on-two rush just inside the bluestripe with Viktor Svedberg, McNeill received a pass at the top of the faceoff circles before roofing the biscuit over the glove of Muse. The goal pushed the Hogs lead to a pair of tallies at 2-0.
After a brief scare when a Charlotte shot rang off the post, the IceHogs responded later in the shift when center Cody Bass picked the pocket of a Checker defender just inside the IceHogs defensive zone. Bass broke free from the defender before firing a shot on the cage. With the initial shot stopped, the Owen Sound, Ontario native batted in his fourth tally of the season less than 90 seconds after the McNeill marker.
Later in period it looked like the Checkers might be able to regain some of the momentum when Svedberg was called for interference with 11:27 left in the stanza. Similar to the opening infraction it was the IceHogs penalty kill unit that gained the energy and found the back of the 4-by-6. Using his speed, Spencer Abbott picked up the puck in the neutral zone, danced his way around the lone Checkers d-man, before patiently skating from the left to the right and slipping the hightlight reel goal past the sprawling Muse.
Charlotte erased Michael Leighton’s bid for his 42nd career AHL shutout mid-way through the final period of regulation after a scramble in front of the Hogs goaltender at the 12:40 mark. The 33 year-old stopped the first two shots as traffic closed in and Mario Lamoureux chipped the loose puck into the net for his second goal of the season. Phil Di Giuseppe and Thomas Frazee each picked up helpers on the play.
Tanner Kero capped off the scoring on the night when he pounced on a rebound behind Muse and slipped the puck in for his third tally of the season at 11:18 of the final period. Zach Miskovic fired the initial shot and struck it off the outside of the post and onto Kero's stick.
Leighton stopped 21 shots on the night to improve his record to 21-13-4.
In their last 13 home games, the IceHogs have opened the scoring in 11 of those contests and show a record to 11-1-1-0. Rockford's offense has been red-hot during their eight game winning streak on home ice, outscoring their opponents 38-16. The IceHogs will close-out the regular season with a pair of home games at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday and Saturday.
Next Home Game: Friday, April 17 vs. Chicago Wolves: Face-off is at 7 p.m. The IceHogs finish the season series against their crosstown rivals as the Chicago Wolves visit the BMO. The first 1,000 fans through the gates will pick up an IceHogs beach towel, courtesy of Peak Fitness. Rockford heads into the final meeting with Chicago already having clinched the 2014-15 Illinois Lottery Cup. The IceHogs have a 7-3-1-0 record against the Wolves this season.