The Rockford IceHogs (37-21-10-4) went into the third frame locked into a 1-1 score with the Manitoba Moose (24-40-4-3), but a strong start to the third from the Moose helped to sink the Hogs to a 5-1 final score on Saturday afternoon.
Just 1:21 into the third period, Austen Brassard tallied his 14th goal of the season. Dan DaSalvo helped swing the puck from behind the net into the right corner and Brandon Lemieux found Brassard in the slot. The puck was fired into the top right corner of the net to snap the 1-1 score.
Barely over a minute later, Lemieux snapped home his first pro goal when he battled a puck free in front of the net before finishing off the power-play strike.
Manitoba continued their third period blitz at 3:58 of the frame. Brandon Denham lofted a shot towards the net, and Sean Escobedo tipped it through the pads of Mac Carruth to push the score up to 4-1. Brassard then ended the scoring with an empty-net power-play goal for the game’s final 5-1 score.
The only goal of the opening frame was recorded 7:40 into the first. A pass from John Albert on the left side kicked off a skate blade before finding Scott Kosmachuk in the slot. Kosmachuk fired a wrist shot just inside the left goal post to boost the Moose to a 1-0 lead.
A second period power play helped the IceHogs even the game at 1-1. Mark McNeill and Vince Hinostroza completed a give-and-go into the zone, ending with a shot from Hinostroza. Ville Pokka collected the rebound and tucked it home at 6:29 of the frame.
Manitoba nearly took the lead right back. Just moments after Rockford’s goal, Kosmachuk raced through the neutral zone and blasted a shot from the right wing that rang off the crossbar and out of play.
Carruth turned aside 28 of the 32 shots he faced in the game while Eric Comrie snagged first star honors while stopping 32 of the 33 shots fired his direction. The two teams rematch at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday at 2 p.m.