“This is the best team off the puck that we’ll see all year,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson prior to the game. That would prove to be true as the Rockford IceHogs ran the puck up and down the ice with fervor. But has been the case all season, the IceHogs perhaps exposed their wounds defensively as the Barons would stay in front by a goal for the majority of the game. However, in the end, the IceHogs would stay persistent, tie the Barons in the final minutes of regulation, and bury them in a shootout victory.
The first period was as expected – quick. Both teams shuffled up and down the ice, and both goatenders played very well. Niko Hovinen for the Oklahoma City Barons, didn’t have his atypical terrible first period. Instead he really positioned himself nicely while his defenders played very well near his crease. On the other end, Carter Hutton stopped several early attempts by Mark Arcobello and Jonathan Cheechoo. But eventually it was Toni Rajala who pick-pocketed Brandon Pirri near center ice, ran the puck up the right win, and netted a goal to the right of Hutton. The Barons take a late period 1-0 lead that would carry for the duration of the first set.
In the second, the offense burst forth. Left winger, Terry Broadhurst, scored his fourth of the season as he knifed to center and beat Hovinen high. The IceHogs would go neck and neck with the Barons at one all. With Rockford on the on the power play, Mark Arcobello would snatch a puck that skips over the top of a defenders stick, and score a goal to put his team up 2-1. But Ben Smith would tie it again with his eighteenth of the season. And just when it seemed that we’d end the second period in another tie, Josh Green made a pass to Rajala who made a miraculous pass to Taylor Fedun, who then lasered in the third goal of the game for OKC. The clock struck zero to end the third period, and the Barons would have a 3-2 lead.
The third period featured Rockford being Rockford – driving the puck, charging hard. And Oklahoma City doing what it hadn’t done for a single second the first twenty minutes – protecting a lead. And it would work until the final two seconds (yes two) of the period. And the Hogs of Ice, care of rookie Adam Clendening, would score the equalizer. The game was headed to OT.
One huge save from Hovinen. One huge save for Hutton. The two teams would head to a shootout.
Here’s your shootout results:
Terry Broadhurst – Goal
Brandon Pirri – No Goal
Jimmy Hayes – No Goal
Martin St. Pierre – No Goal
Brad Mills – Goal
Oklahoma City Shootout
Josh Green – No Goal
C.J. Stretch – No Goal
Jonathan Cheechoo – No Goal
Mark Arcobello – Goal
Toni Rajala – No Goal
In the end, the IceHogs had the momentum and just a tad more hootzpah with their shot taking skills, as they’d overcome Niko Hovinen and the Barons to win 4-3. The same two square off tomorrow night.
Toni Rajala is a prospect worth getting excited about. He closed quickly on a Rockford forward tonight, stole the puck, and danced towards the net where he’d score a fantastic goal. Then he had a beautiful pass to Taylor Fedun for a goal by the defenseman. Rajala is an unexpected joy that is sneaky dangerous when he touches the puck.
The black eye of the night was two-fold. First, the Barons didn’t shoot the puck much (15), and thus they are fortunate to have been facing an opponent with miserable defensive backing. Second, the third period “fade” is a thing again. Not seen since last season, tonight the Barons spent the final twenty minutes of the game almost exclusively in their own zone. It took 19:58 for Rockford to make good on their “push”, but it happened because of the fade. Just a terrible third period gameplan against a team that rushes up the ice on every shift. Not good.
Hovinen had a pretty solid start, and played very well throughout. No slow start, but a so-so shootout performance means we likely get Olivier Roy tomorrow night. Godspeed.
Anyone else want to blame Dierks Bentley for the loss or “Am I The Only One?”