Rockford Spoils Sopel's Night
ROSEMONT, Ill. - On a night when the Chicago Wolves celebrated Brent Sopel's 1,000 professional games with a pregame ceremony, the Rockford IceHogs scored a pair of second-period goals to spark a 3-0 win Saturday night in an Illinois Lottery Cup game at Allstate Arena.
The Wolves (18-13-4-0) launched 18 shots in the third period in their bid to close the gap, but they could not solve veteran Rockford goaltender Michael Leighton.
"It's a 60-minute game. You have to look at it in its entirety," said Wolves head coach John Anderson. "They won two periods, we won one. I like their chances better than ours."
Rockford (21-11-3-1) opened the scoring 36 seconds into the second period as center Mark McNeill rushed down the left side all the way to the goal line. As Wolves goaltender Matt Climie shut down the near post, McNeill flipped a backhand pass meant to cross the crease to a teammate. Instead, it banked off a Wolves defenseman's skate into the open net.
The IceHogs improved their lead to 2-0 at 18:20 of the second as Phillip Danault fired from close range and Climie's save set off a fierce scramble in front of the net. Klas Dahlbeck collected the puck just outside the crease and flipped home a backhand.
Rockford's Garret Ross tacked on an empty-net goal with 1:15 to play. Leighton (9-7-2) posted 31 saves to earn his third American Hockey League shutout this season and 39th of his career.
Climie (8-8-3) finished with 35 saves, including several spectacular stops as he continued his strong recent play.
"He held us in there," Anderson said. "He was the reason we were around in the third period. We just couldn't find a way to beat Leighton."
The Wolves travel to Grand Rapids on Saturday and Iowa on Jan. 13 before returning to Allstate Arena to face the Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16. The Wolves will debut their Fight Against Cancer specialty jerseys that night. To get the best deals on tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.
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American Hockey League Stories from January 3, 2015
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