ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs had two games at the BMO Center over the weekend. Two chances to grab some momentum over the Central Division-champion Texas Stars. Instead, Rockford will pack for the Lone Star State in a big hole in its Central Division Semifinal series.
“You get one, that’s big,” Stars coach Neil Graham told the Stars media team after his team prevailed 4-1 on Sunday, “and to get two’s even bigger. We’ll bank the wins and now we’ve got to get back to work when we get home.”
Texas returns home with a 2-0 series advantage on the strength of a superior transition game and a knack for capitalizing on IceHogs’ mistakes. Sunday’s win, coupled with a 5-3 victory on Friday, have the Stars in the driver’s seat as the series shifts to Cedar Park for Game 3 on Wednesday.
“I think they were just a little more opportunistic,” Rockford forward Brett Seney explained to the media Sunday, following his team’s loss in Game 2.
Seney was focused on the action on Sunday. However, the sentiment was equally valid in Game 1, when Texas converted on key IceHogs turnovers to twice rally from a goal down.
“It was a tight game all the way,” Hogs coach Anders Sorensen admitted in his media session following Friday’s loss. “Unfortunately, we gave that one up.”
The Stars took a 1-0 lead on a Rhett Gardner tally that capped a Texas rush to the net after forcing a turnover in neutral ice. Rockford then built a 2-1 advantage on a power-play goal by Joey Anderson in the final seconds of the first period, followed by a D.J. Busdeker goal 1:16 into the second.
Texas was able to use a misplay by Rockford goalie Arvid Soderblom behind his own net in the second period to erase the deficit. Marian Studenic did the honors 14:33 into the middle frame. After the IceHogs took a 3-2 advantage early in the third on Bobby Lynch‘s put-back, the Stars got the equalizer from Scott Reedy on the power play after a Mike Hardman elbowing penalty.
The game-winner was a direct result of a blind spinning pass from the stick of Rockford forward Lukas Reichel. Stars defenseman Alex Petrovic hauled in the puck in the high slot to start the rush the other way. Mavrik Bourque skated the puck to the left circle before finding Nicholas Caamano, who had snuck behind the Hogs’ defense, for a tap-in with less than four minutes remaining in the third period. Studenic found the empty net late for his second goal of the night.
On Sunday, the big guns came out to play for the Stars. Curtis McKenzie and Riley Barber gave Texas a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. Anderson got the Hogs on the board early in the third, but that’s as close as things got. Barber got his second of the evening 16:32 into the third, with Tanner Kero adding an empty-netter in the final minute.
“I thought we were much better on the forecheck today,” Sorensen said after Game 2. “I thought we established our forecheck; it was much better. We got some chances out of it. That was the biggest thing we noticed. We defended their rush real well. We didn’t give them a lot off the rush, which was good.”
Despite a more disciplined effort in Game 2, Rockford is facing elimination. Sorensen, however, was putting a positive spin on his team’s chances to get back into the series.
“If we play like we did here, we have a really good chance,” he said. “We have to take it one shift at a time to start, one period, and then the first game down there. Win that one, and then we’re feeling good about ourselves.”
Seney was scoreless, along with linemates David Gust and Luke Philp, on Sunday. He knows that needs to be remedied in Rockford’s Game 3 approach Wednesday.
“I think we’ve got to play with a little more swagger when we get the puck in those kind of areas and just be confident,” Seney said. “Maybe shoot to score more and maybe if the shot’s not there, try to create rebounds or throw something in the paint and try to bang some home.”
Wednesday’s Game 3 is set to start at Cedar Park’s H.E.B. Center at 7:00 p.m. CDT.
Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!
- The Holy GrAHL Podcast Episode 69: Finals
- Calder Cup Finals Preview: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Hershey Bears
- Newly-Affiliated Gladiators Elevate Nesbitt To Head Coach, Promote Pyle
- PHOTOS: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Milwaukee Admirals – 06/01/2023
- Bears Blank Amerks, Advance to Calder Cup Final
- Everblades Edge Out Steelheads in Game of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- ECHL Kelly Cup Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Florida Everblades
- Amerks Outlast Bears to Force Sixth Game
- PHOTOS: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Milwaukee Admirals – 05/29/2023
- PHOTOS: Idaho Steelheads vs. Toledo Walleye – 05/27/2023