ROCKFORD, Ill. – Brandon Segal’s goal with just 2:43 remaining gave the Rockford IceHogs a 3-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center, in the 2011-12 debut for each team.
The Griffins, who had twice rallied to tie the score, dropped their seventh straight game in Rockford (0-6-0-1) and saw their eight-year point streak in season openers (5-0-2-1) come to an end. Now 10-3-2-1 all time in season debuts, Grand Rapids has lost its road opener to the IceHogs each of the last two years, following what had been an 11-year point streak in road openers (9-0-2-0 from 1999-2009).
The Griffins will take aim at their 16th consecutive home-opening sellout this Friday, Oct. 14, when they host the Toronto Marlies in a 7 p.m. start at Van Andel Arena.
Kyle Beach gave the IceHogs the early advantage with a power play goal at 8:10 of the opening period, setting up at the left point and firing a low wrist shot that slipped through traffic and past Joey MacDonald.
On the other end, Alec Richards stopped the first 12 shots he saw and had Rockford poised to take the lead to the locker room, but Willie Coetzee spoiled those plans at the 19:45 mark. A deflection sent the puck into the left circle to Coetzee, who slammed it into a wide-open net for his first goal in 28 career games with Grand Rapids. Veteran Chris Conner was credited with an assist in his Griffins debut, with rookie Gustav Nyquist earning the other helper.
Another power play marker for Rockford stood up as the only goal of the second period, putting the IceHogs ahead 2-1 entering the final 20 minutes. Chris DiDomenico took a shot from along the right boards that was turned aside, but when MacDonald couldn’t find the loose puck by his right pad, DiDomenico swooped in to tap it home at 11:05.
The Griffins momentarily thought they had again tied the game early in the third period when Tomas Tatar batted his own rebound past Richards from the right of the net. But after a short conference of officials, the referee ruled that Tatar’s stick was above the crossbar, negating the goal.
Undaunted, the Griffins did tie matters at 13:28 with the game’s fourth power play goal. From just to the left of the Rockford net, Landon Ferraro quickly found Jamie Johnson at the top of the crease for a point-blank tally. The assist marked the first professional point for the son of former NHLer Ray Ferraro.
The deadlock was short-lived, though. Less than four minutes later, Rockford’s Rob Klinkhammer drew a crowd in the right circle but managed to send a pass through the slot to Segal, who popped the puck over MacDonald from the doorstep for the game-winner.
MacDonald made 26 saves in his 185th career appearance, one shy of Jimmy Howard’s franchise record, but he was outdueled by Richards’ 28 stops.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Segal (game-winning goal); 2. GR Johnson (power play goal); 3. RFD Richards (W, 28 saves)