Through five games, Tanner Kero has proven that his point totals at the end of last season were no fluke. The rookie out of Northern Michigan tallied three points, including the game-winning goal, and the Rockford IceHogs earned their first home win of the season against the Iowa Wild by a 3-2 score at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford played their best game of the young campaign, racking up 39 shots on goal and only allowing Iowa three power plays.
The IceHogs controlled the pace of play in the first period, outshooting the Wild 16-6. Rockford earned a power play at 10:06 after Jordan Schroeder hooked Kero to the ice. Mark McNeill and Jeremy Morin each threatened to break the deadlock, but Jeremy Smith kept the home team off the board.
The IceHogs best chance to score came when Kero deflected a point shot out of midair, but the puck skittered just wide of the cage with five minutes to play in the period.
Continuing the pressure, Rockford wasted little time breaking the stalemate in the second period. Gustav Olofsson tripped Garret Ross a minute into the stanza and the IceHogs worked the puck to the point, where Kero fired a shot-pass in the direction of the slot. Ville Pokka tipped the puck to a wide-open Brandon Mashinter, who deposited it into the net for his first goal of the season at 2:03.
After killing off a bench minor for too many men, Iowa earned a power play when Labrie was sent off for boarding. Christoph Bertschy redirected a shot by Mike Reilly out of midair past a helpless Leighton to equalize at 1-1 at 5:28.
Ryan Hartman and Kyle Baun nearly combined with Dowell to help the IceHogs retake the lead 13 minutes into the period. Dowell’s slot opportunity caught the left post but the score remained tied.
Rockford would not be denied, though, and tallied moments later. Morin jumped on a neutral zone turnover, streaked past his bench, and tucked a drop pass to a curling Kero, who fired a shot along the ice and through the legs of Smith at 14:29 to put the IceHogs back in the lead.
Mashinter had a golden opportunity to score his second of the game and double the IceHogs lead with just over 13 minutes to play in the contest. The team captain went on a two-on-one rush with Labrie, but a sprawling Smith contested the initial chance, denied Mashinter’s follow up attempt, and gloved a final effort from a trailing Dowell.
Smith made another spectacular stop three minutes later on yet another odd-man chance. Kero slid a pass through a Wild defender to Dano, but Smith fully extended across the goalmouth to catch a piece of the shot with his blocker.
Iowa took advantage of Smith’s big saves and Rockford’s inability to capitalize at 14:10. Michael Keranen tried to slam the puck by Leighton, and Maxime Fortunus swatted the rebound out of midair to even the score at 2-2.
The bounces went in the IceHogs favor just a minute later. Smith tried to corral the puck as it came behind his net, but it careened off the end boards, hopped over the goaltender’s stick, and Kero slammed it home for his second of the game at 15:09 to give Rockford the lead for good.
The IceHogs appeared to have doubled their lead at 16:15 during a goalmouth scramble. Mashinter drove the net, and Dennis Rasmussen came up celebrating while the referee gave the goal signal. The play went to review, though, and the officials disallowed the tally after determining the puck had found its way across the goal line courtesy of a Rockford glove.
Iowa came inches away from tying the game with three minutes left. Olofsson wired a puck through traffic and past Leighton, who got help from his left post. Iowa pulled Smith in favor of the extra attacker, but the IceHogs prevented any chance by turning away all shooting attempts in the final minutes before they could reach Leighton.
Smith put forth a valiant effort in net, turning away 36 shots, but still took the loss. Rockford went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Iowa recorded one goal in three man advantages.