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Rockford Report: IceHogs’ season ends with losing streak

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Rockford finishes the AHL season with a 25-39-9-3 record.

The Rockford IceHogs wrapped up the 2016-17 AHL season on Saturday night with a loss to the Iowa Wild. It completes an underwhelming 25-39-9-3 season for the IceHogs, who finished last in the Central Division a year after making the playoffs with a 40-22-10-4 record.

Here are recaps of the final two games.

Milwaukee 6, Rockford 2

In the 12th and final matchup this season at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena Friday night, the Milwaukee Admirals scored early and often on their way to a decisive 6-2 home victory over Rockford. The Admirals claim the season series against the IceHogs, 5-4-2-1.

Rockford center Michael Latta was a game-time disqualification due to a lineup sheet infraction. Following a recent Rockford trend of slow starts, the IceHogs found themselves down 1-0 at just 5:01 of the first. Frederick Gaudreau notched his 25th goal just as an Admiral power play began. The visitors made it 2-0 at 14:41 when Justin Kirkland knocked a rebound past Rockford starter Mac Carruth. Milwaukee led the shots on goal total for the opening period, 10-7.

In the second 20 minutes the Admirals wasted no time building a 3-0 advantage when Samuel Girard scored his first professional goal at 2:17. The IceHogs broke through to get one back at 5:01 as Nolan Valleau beat Milwaukee starting goalie Marek Mazanec with a tough-angle wrist shot off the right post to reset the scoreboard 3-1. Matt White put the Admirals back up by three at 9:32 before the IceHogs answered at 10:33 on the first pro goal by Luc Snuggerud on a shot off a Milwaukee defenseman in traffic out front to make it 4-2. Two late-period Rockford power play chances proved costly for the visitors when Ads defenseman Adam Pardy split the pipes to beat Carruth shorthanded on a 3-on-2 break at 16:48.

Heading into the third trailing 5-2, Rockford again could not secure a rebound in the slot at 3:54 when defenseman Petter Granberg put the home team ahead by a 6-2 margin. Nothing else got by either netminder as the road schedule would end on a bad note for Rockford with the four-goal loss. Shots on goal for the contest favored the Admirals, 33-26.

Iowa 5, Rockford 2

Down to the final contest of the 2016-17 season, a sellout crowd filled the BMO Harris Bank Center on Fan Appreciation Night Saturday. Pre-game ceremonies included IceHog team awards for the year. The visiting Iowa Wild spoiled the party with a convincing 5-2 defeat of Rockford.

Prior to puck drop in the first period, Rockford play-by-play radio announcer Bob Mills reminded listeners how the IceHogs were playing for pride and a chance to become “Black Aces” with a potential opportunity to join the affiliate Blackhawks roster for the NHL playoffs.

The Wild netted three goals in the opening stanza, including two by Gerald Mayhew at 5:18 and 16:15. 2016 first-round pick Luke Kunin added a third score for Iowa at 17:42 as the visitors began the rout and quickly lowered the volume at the BMO.

Two more Wild goals in the second put the home team down 5-0 with scores from Kurtis Gabriel and Dmitry Sokolov in the first three minutes. Hogs starting netminder Lars Johansson turned away the remaining shots in the second 20 minutes to stop the bleeding.

At 5:39 into the third frame, IceHogs fan favorite PC Labrie — earlier named Rockford’s ”Man of the Year” — gave the fans some hope by beating Wild starter Steve Michalek to make it 5-1 on Labrie’s first of the year, assisted by team captain Jake Dowell and Luc Snuggerud. Iowa goalie Alex Stalock was recalled to Minnesota earlier Saturday with Michalek being sent down for the start. It was rookie William Pelletier’s turn to light the lamp at 14:28 on a great pass from Brandon Mashinter for the 5-2 final.

Shots on goal favored Rockford after a strong third period, 34-32.

Saturday night’s game concluded the regular season for Rockford. The home opener for the 2017-18 campaign is slated for Oct. 14. Both Rockford and Iowa were eliminated from a spot in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs earlier in the season.