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Rockford IceHogs, Chicago Wolves battle into shootout; Chicago wins 3-2

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Patrick Boylan

I write the Wolves blog for ChicagoNow

The Chicago Wolves and the Rockford IceHogs battled for 65 minutes without reaching a decision. After a goaltender battle that saw Chicago Blackhawks prospect Corey Crawford turn aside 25 shots and Chicago Wolves Goalie Manny Legace turn aside 32 shots, LaGrange, Ill. Native Tim Stapleton, who had scored a short handed goal earlier in the game, scored the winning goal in a shootout.

Although the Wolves are credited as having only six shots on goal in the first frame, they were hear stoppers for Crawford. Rylan Kaip was foiled by Crawford at point blank range. Then Blackhawks prospect Bryan Bickell, on the other end, fired from the top of the slot at 4:54 to make it 1-0 IceHogs. It took the Wolves until 8:50 into the period before they had their next shot on goal, while the Hogs had already put 9 on the board.

With Paul Postma in the sin bin, the Wolves had a 3:2 short handed break-away. Chris Chelios and Arturs Kulda fed Stapleton for a wrap-around that beat Crawford to tie the score. It was Stapleton's second short handed score of the year, putting him in a five way tie for the lead in that measure.

With the Hogs putting a lot of pressure on the Wolves Bryan Bickell came up with the puck and fired a beautiful wrister that Legace turned aside. By the end of the period the IceHogs had 17 shots on goal, just shy of their season high of 18 scored in Peoria.

"We didn't have a good first period," Wolves Center Kaip said of the offensively light first period, "we were fortunate to have a chance to (comeback) in the second two frames."

"We looked like school kids out there in the first period," Head Coach Don Lever said. "We weren't shooting the puck enough. We're missing Jason Krog and John Pohl tonight... We need more on the power play."

Early in the second frame Chelios brought the puck up, across the center to the near boards, then dumped it in to Spencer Machacek. Machacek's wrap-around was stopped by Crawford, but Brett Sterling found the rebound and hammered it in from point blank to score. Chelios, who has been amazing to watch on this level, defended a 2:1 breakaway near the ten minute mark, throwing himself in the path of the puck and defeating the breakaway brilliantly.

From that point the momentum seemed to balance. Josh Gratton dumped Daryl Boyle into the Wolves bench as the Wolves defense seemed to be coming together and the Rockford blue line seemed to be getting more disorganized.

With 3:19 remaining in the second frame Nathan Davis battled for the puck, freezing it behind Legace. When it came out Evan Brophey and Bickell were there in traffic. But Davis came up with it again, hammering it into the net for a tie score.

As the third period wore on there was a disputed Rockford goal that was called back and Riley Holzapfel and Jack Skille had a dance in the corner the game. Rockford, on the sixth power play of the night, allowed Chicago a 5:3 for 17 seconds. Holding Chicago back, Rockford went on its own power play. Brett Sterling achieved one of the best breakaways I've seen, but wasn't able to finish the play due to some fine defense by Blackhawks prospect Brian Connelly.

With 19 seconds remaining, Rockford received another man advantage, it was held by Chicago. Then Chicago received a man advantage for a full two minutes of overtime. Sterling, in another breakaway was amazing, but so was Crawford who kept Rockford playing and forcing the game into a shootout.

Stapleton, who has seven points in nine games, scored the only goal of the shootout for the Chicago win. Despite two overtime power plays and twelve power plays total, no goals were scored by either team on the power play. Chicago has now held its opponents to just four goals in three games, 1.33 average goals against, under new Head Coach Lever and with Chelios on the bench, with a perfect penalty kill, 16 for 16. The PK had been at 75 percent and the average goals against the Wolves had been 3.67 before October 19. While it may be statistically insignificant, the shots on goal has declined to an average of 32 from 35.67 in the same period.

More important perhaps, the club record has changed from 1-5-0 prior to October 19 to 2-0-1 since October 19.

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