IceHogs Spoil Home Opener 5-1|
Rockford's Three Power-Play Goals Too Much To Overcome...
By Jason Kasiorek
Leave it to the new kid on the block, the Rockford IceHogs to spoil the festivities of opening night in Grand Rapids. Three IceHogs' goals in a six minute span of the first period proved to be too much for the home team to overcome as they eventually fell 5-1 before a sellout crowd. Brett Engelhardt scored the Griffins only goal on a powerplay late in the first.
Ice Hogs winger Adam Berti drew first blood just over three minutes into the game on a bang-bang play, redirecting the puck past Howard high, glove side. Randall Gelech had a chance to answer with a great point blank shot that Flaherty stopped. Four minutes later Brouwer drifted to the edge of the crease and converted a pass for a powerplay marker to make it 2-0. A minute and a half later Rockford took a commanding lead when a bad bounce in front created a fluky goal by Blunden. Coach Stothers called his timeout to try and settle down his troops and help them regain their composure. Hartigan had a breakaway from the blueline in, but Flaherty stayed with him and closed off the net. Three straight penalties to the IceHogs led to several good scoring chances for the Griffins before Engelhardt got them on the board with 3:43 left in the period. Engelhardt picked up a loose puck to the side of the cage and roofed it for a powerplay goal. Shots on goal GR 19 - Rockford 11.
Rockford came out hustling in the second, really taking it to the Griffins who seemed to be standing around. Feisty winger Adam Keefe tried to get his team going by dropping the gloves with Dowell off the faceoff. He took some good punches, but gave better than he got. A bad penalty to Gelech, the first of three consecutive hooking penalties to the Griffins, killed a 5 on 3 powerplay and left GR down two skaters. On the ensuing powerplay, a bullet from the point by Bolland cleanly beat Howard for a 5 on 3 goal. Grand Rapids is being outworked and outhustled by the IceHogs, and the Griffins are guilty of standing around. Shots on goal GR 10 - Rockford 15.
Griffins blueliner Tom Galvin made the score 5-1 when he accidentally scored into his own net while trying to take away a passing lane. Hartigan crashed the net, bowling over Flaherty with help from an IceHogs defender, leading to a goal being waved off, and a penalty. Tempers flared towards the end as a melee breaks out with Ference and Berti dropping the gloves. Ference took the worst of it in a short bout. Oulahen had a great shorthanded chance late in the game, but after a great move, the puck lay in the crease. Stafford came late and had a swipe at it, but couldn't score. Shots on goal GR 10 - Man 10. For the game GR 39 - Rockford 36.
Ryno/Ritola - Corazzini - Cullen
Ritola/Grigorenko - Hartigan - Gelech
Grigorenko - Oulahen - Engelhardt
Keefe - Helm - Tardif
Kindl - Stafford
Ericsson - Ference/Galvin
Defense all jumbled due to only five dressed
Insana - Injured
Ryno/Grigorenko - Corazzini - Cullen
Hartigan - Stafford
Engelhardt - Oulahen - Gelech/Ryno
Ericsson - Kindl
Tardif - Oulahen
Ference - Kindl
Gelech - Hartigan
Ericsson - Stafford
Jimmy Howard was a little shaky early on, but got stronger in the latter stages of the game. Most of the goals weren't his fault, he didn't get a lot of help in clearing the puck.
Jamie Tardif had a very strong game at both ends of the ice, banging around on the fourth line. He also was incredible on the penalty kill, blocking shot after shot. Defensively he may have been GR's best player.
The fourth line of Tardif, Keefe and Helm or Oulehan had several quality shifts, providing a physical presence and energy throughout the game.
Igor Grigorenko looked better tonight than the last few times I saw him. Still no speedster he was much more involved offensively. That being said, he still has a way to go.
Mattias Ritola was invisible for most of the game, but put on a puck-handling clinic on a few shifts towards the end of the game. He needs to gain confidence in his amazing skill set, and work harder at putting forth a consistent effort.
The first line with Corazzini - Cullen was dangerous all night, buzzing around the net and creating chances. They need a little more grit on that line, as they were roughed up a lot throughout the game.
The team seemed to play without any fire or passion for most of the contest, and the IceHogs seemed to physically control the game. The Griffins may need to add some grit and fire to all the talent they have assembled ala Neil Clark.