The Rockford IceHogs defeated the Chicago Wolves 5-2 Sunday afternoon in Rockford to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals. The Central Division champion Wolves will look to stave off elimination in Game 3 on Thursday, April 26, at Allstate Arena.
The game was again dictated by special teams as the Wolves and IceHogs combined for four power-play goals — three by Rockford as it took command in the second period. The IceHogs have gone 5 of 12 on the power play in the series.
“I think about how disappointed I am in our lack of discipline once again,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “Their power play is good. It’s been really good toward the end of the year. We knew that — and our guys are not conforming and not doing what they need to do to control themselves out there.”
Chicago (0-2) gained its first lead of the series at 9:12 of the first frame. Just out of the penalty box, veteran center Wade Megan set up the play and hesitated while the defense changed. He then fed Jason Garrison, who teed up his partner Zac Leslie at the right point. Leslie’s blast went into a crowd and Megan gobbled up the rebound for the 1-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived as Rockford (2-0) netted the equalizer just 4:12 later. William Pelletier found himself with ample time in the left circle for a clean shot and beat Oscar Dansk (0-2).
With 51 seconds left in the opening period — while Leslie served a high-sticking infraction — Luke Johnson collected a power-play goal to put the IceHogs in front 2-1.
After taking the penalty that led to the man-advantage which Rockford scored on for the 2-1 lead, Leslie knotted the game on the power play with three-tenths of a second left in the period. Leslie zipped in on the rush and fed T.J. Tynan a pass on the right wing. Tynan blasted a shot that Delia blocked, but the rebound went right to Leslie flying through the slot and he knocked it past Collin Delia (2-0) for the 2-2 game-tying goal.
“We talked about it between periods: We can’t continue to put them on the power play,” Thompson said. “We’re out there on the first shift of the second period and we put them on the power play. But the momentum swing for the game, though, happened on our failure to execute on our 5-on-3.”
The IceHogs took the 3-2 lead just 3:47 into the second period — again on the power play. This time Matthew Highmore captured the go-ahead goal. Shortly thereafter, the Wolves had 75 seconds’ worth of 5-on-3 power-play time, but couldn’t convert.
Rockford gained a two-goal lead with 3:56 to go in the middle frame while defensemen Leslie and Nicolas Hague served hooking and delay-of-game penalties, respectively. Chris DiDomenico scored from the bottom of the left circle on a tic-tac-toe play to convert the 5-on-3.
Lance Bouma punctuated the 5-2 victory with an empty-net tally with 39 seconds on the clock.
Dansk stopped 24 shots while Delia made 26 saves.
The series returns to Allstate Arena on Thursday, April 26, for Game 3 when the Wolves will look to avoid a sweep elimination by their in-state rival. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on The U Too in the Chicago market.