Article By: Nate Haeni
01/23/2016 10:00 PM
Photo by Greg Hamil
Rockford, Ill. – Goaltender Michael Leighton held the Iowa Wild off the board while Mark McNeill delivered a clutch goal late to give the Rockford IceHogs a 1-0 victory on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The IceHogs used their first power play of the game to notch the contest’s first and only goal. After Tyler Graovac was whistled for roughing with 6:15 remaining, the Hogs power play went to work. Marko Dano snapped a shot on net from the top of the faceoff circle that McNeill was able to catch a piece of and redirect past Iowa goalie Jeremy Smith. The power-play strike was the third in as many games for Rockford and gave McNeill points (4g-3a) in six consecutive contests.
The Wild went into desperation mode after the late tally while looking for the equalizer, but Leighton continued to fend off everything that came his way to earn his third shutout of the season and 44th of his AHL career. The shutout puts Leighton just one behind the league’s all-time mark held by Johnny Bower (45).
Early on, both defenses were sharp, as the team’s played a scoreless 40 minutes. With the two teams meeting just 24 hours prior, the first period was filled with penalties and flared tempers. Mike Liambas and Kurtis Gabriel set the tone early as the two engaged in a marathon fight just three minutes into the contest.
Rockford killed off four Iowa power plays through the first two periods before denying the Wild's final man advantage early in the final frame.
Forward Ryan Hartman nearly gave the IceHogs the lead 50 seconds into the third period when he was hauled down racing into the Iowa zone and awarded a penalty shot, the second of the season for the Rockford and the West Dundee, Ill. native. However, Jeremy Smith stuffed Hartman’s backhand attempt to keep the game scoreless.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, Jan. 27 vs. Charlotte Checkers at 7 p.m. Rockford hosts the second-place team in the Central Division in a mid-week showdown on BMO Harris Bank Night. The first 1,500 fans in the building will receive a Zamboni Bank courtesy of BMO Harris Bank. The game marks another Winning Weekday; if the IceHogs win, every fan in attendance can redeem their ticket for a free ticket to the next weekday game.