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The Rockford IceHogs fell to 0-2-0-0 against the North Division on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse. (By Greg Hamil)
11/01/2008 7:02 PM

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IceHogs drop two straight after winning six in a row

Rockford, Ill.- With a one-goal lead and about six minutes left in the game, the Rockford IceHogs gave up two late markers to fall to the Crunch 3-2 at the Rockford MetroCentre on Saturday.

But the key reasons for the late-game collapse could have shown themselves earlier in the third period, when the IceHogs spent eight of the first 13 minutes on the penalty kill.

"When you kill off four straight penalties and eight straight minutes basically of those first 13 minutes, that's too much too ask," said coach Bill Peters. "And then you ask those same guys to go out and keep playing.  They were out of gas."

It is the second straight loss for the IceHogs, both came at home and against strong opponents from the North Division.

"This is a good reality check for our guys," Peters said. "They were two very good opponents.   There wasn't really any room for any of the teams to operate so you just have to slug it out for 60 minutes."

The Syracuse Crunch picked up the first goal of the game thanks to a rebound shot from Tom Sestito at 2:46 in the first period.  The assists came from Jonathan Sigalet and Trevor Frischmon.  The IceHogs are now 1-3-0-0 when giving up the first goal of the game.

Peters said he wasn't happy with how the team played to start the game.

"It took a long time before we registered a shot on goal and I thought we were badly out played for the first 7 or eight minutes," he said. "From that point on we were fine until we started the parade to the box."

But then Evan Brophey tied the game at one with his second goal of the season at 9:20 in the second frame with helpers from Jake Dowell and Rob Klinkhammer.

And at 14:10 defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson gave the IceHogs the advantage with a blast from the top of the face-off circle with assists from Tim Hambly and Jack Skille.   With six goals so far this season coming from blue-liners, a total of 20 percent of the IceHogs offense have come from defenseman in 2008-09.

Then in the third period, Sigalet scored a short-handed goal at 14:37 and then an even-strength goal at 18:51 to put the Crunch up for good.

"If you're successful killing four of four penalties," Peters said. "Then get an opportunity to go on the power play at the 14-minute mark, giving up a short-handed goal definitely deflates your bench, there's no question about that."

Defenseman Danny Groulx, who was named an alternate captain on Friday, said the team needs to refocus on staying out of the penalty box.

"We have to learn from this," he said. "It's unacceptable to give away two goals like that when we had the lead with five minutes to go in the game.  I'm sure we'll look at the clips and find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

In the first ten games of the 2008-09 season, the IceHogs have been out shot eight times, including both games this weekend.  The IceHogs' penalty kill squad held the Crunch off of the board in seven attempts, while the Hogs power play put in one in four opportunities.  Antti Niemi took the loss with 24 saves, while Steve Mason had 22 saves for the win.

Next Game:  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Rockford IceHogs at Peoria Rivermen at 7:05 p.m. The Rockford IceHogs play their first of three road games in their first mid-week contest of the 2008-09 season at Carver Arena in Peoria.  The Rivermen and IceHogs met twice in the preseason, but it will be the first of 10 meetings in the regular season between the two teams. After starting the season with seven of their first eleven at home, the IceHogs will now play four of five on the road before coming back to the MetroCentre for four straight.

Next Home Game:  Wednesday, Nov. 12: Milwaukee Admirals vs. Rockford IceHogs at 7:05 p.m. The Rockford IceHogs return home from a mini-road trip after a set of games in Norfolk, Virginia.  The IceHogs will be giving away three pairs of Chicago Blackhawks tickets and five pairs of penthouse suite tickets to see the Hawks inside the United Center.