ROCKFORD, Ill.-The Rockford IceHogs welcomed Texas Stars rookie Matthew Murray, one of the AHL’s top goaltenders, to the BMO Center Wednesday night. The IceHogs were anything but hospitable in the Central Division matchup.
Rockford chased Murray from the crease with three goals in the first 10:30 of action, cruising to a 7-2 win over the visiting Stars.
“They’re a good team,” said Hogs head coach Anders Sorensen to the media following the win, “but I think that we have offense in our game. We have players that can make plays; our biggest thing is to just keep checking. I thought we did check well today. I thought we defended well. If you defend well, you’re going to attack even better.”
The IceHogs wasted little time carrying the attack to Texas, converting on a turnover to take a lead they would never relinquish. Cole Guttman picked off a pass along the halfboards of the Stars zone, skated to the right dot, and sent an offering that beat Murray to the far side at 1:24 of the first period.
Guttman’s tally was quickly followed by a goal by Brett Seney at the 3:26 mark. Issak Phillips‘ strike from the right circle at 10:30 of the first ended Murray’s evening with three goals allowed on seven Rockford shots. The Texas net was filled by Anton Khudobin for the remainder of the game.
Down 3-0 entering the second stanza, Texas got on the board when Stars captain Curtis McKenzie redirected a Ben Gleason shot past Hogs goalie Mitchell Weeks at the 3:24 mark. Rockford quickly re-established the three-goal advantage at 4:56 when David Gust guided a loose puck into the Stars net for his ninth goal of the season.
Rockford limited Texas in the Hogs zone, breaking up centering attempts and effectively preventing a lot of traffic in front of Weeks. The Stars put on some pressure in the final twenty minutes, but Weeks stopped 15 of 16 shots in the third period. Only Alex Petrovic‘s shorthanded goal got past the Rockford rookie, while the Hogs lit the lamp three more times.
Seney’s second goal of the night midway through the third gave Rockford a 5-1 lead. After Petrovic cut the lead to 5-2, Luke Philp and Lukas Reichel got in on the scoring in the final minutes of action.
The 8-6-0-1 IceHogs now look toward the weekend, which consists of a tough home-and-home with the Milwaukee Admirals. Friday’s tilt is in Rockford, with the action moving to Milwaukee on Saturday.
“They’re on top of our division right now, so we know it’s a good challenge for our group,” Sorensen said about the Admirals. “We’re embracing the challenge.”
- Weeks moves to 3-1-1 on the season, improving his goals against average to 2.95 and his save percentage to .909 in five games. His workload got heavier as the game went on, but he made some nice stops in the third period and allowed the Hogs to keep their foot on the gas.
- Buddy Robinson suffered what looked to be an injury to his right leg in the first period. The injury occurred with 9:17 left in the period, when Robinson was checked into the boards by Stars forward Rhett Gardner. Robinson had to be helped from the ice and did not return to action.
- On the strength of his four-point (2 G, 2 A) night, Seney was voted the game’s First Star.
- Phillips and Gust, the Second and Third Stars, each had a goal and two assists.
- As a result of their seven-goal outburst, Rockford ties the Admirals for the Central Division’s most potent offensive team. Both clubs have 60 goals in 15 games heading into this weekend’s showdown.
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