Unable to counter a three-goal Rockford scoring outburst in the first period, the San Antonio Rampage fell to the IceHogs by a 4-1 score in front of 8,083 at the AT&T Center on Saturday night.
San Antonio (28-27-3-6) faced an IceHogs team that entered Saturday in second place in the AHL’s West Division with a record of 37-23-3-3.
Rockford, which scored a combined nine goals in two games against San Antonio during the third weekend in February, entered the matchup 3-2-0-0 overall and 0-1-0-0 on the road against the Rampage in 2009-10.
The IceHogs opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the first period on a goal by center Matt Keith. After Rockford left wing Pete MacArthur gained control of the puck in the right corner of the San Antonio zone, MacArthur found Keith in the slot, where the center beat Rampage goalie Josh Tordjman through the five-hole on a one-timer to provide the IceHogs with a 1-0 lead.
Keith’s goal represented his sixth goal in six games against the Rampage this season and MacArthur’s helper marked his sixth helper in his last three games against San Antonio.
The IceHogs improved their lead to 2-0, at 14:12 of the first, on former Rampage right wing Derek Nesbitt’s third goal of the season. Controlling the puck along the right boards in the neutral zone, Nesbitt broke into the right side of the Rampage zone and fired a shot off the inside of the right post from the top of the left faceoff circle.
Following Nesbitt’s goal, San Antonio head coach Ray Edwards replaced Tordjman with fellow Rampage netminder Miika Wiikman.
Continuing to display their offensive prowess, the IceHogs struck three minutes and 23 seconds later when center Bracken Kearns carried the puck along the left boards with speed and beat Wiikman high to the stick side to place the Rampage in a 3-0 hole.
The Rampage finally found the scoreboard at the 8:15 mark of the second when left wing Jeff Hoggan pounced on the puck in the slot and beat IceHogs goaltender Hannu Toivonen low to the glove side to close the deficit to 3-1.
However, Rockford promptly suppressed San Antonio’s burst of energy when IceHogs defenseman Danny Richmond received a pass from Keith above the left faceoff circle and fired a shot that was tipped over Wiikman’s right shoulder by Nesbitt at 13:55 of the second stanza to restore Rockford’s three-goal advantage.
The Rampage tested Toivonen on 12 occasions in the final frame, but were unable to solve the IceHogs netminder in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Toivonen made 32 saves on 33 San Antonio shots for the victory, while Tordjman and Wiikman combined to turn away 32 of 36 Rockford shots in the loss.
The Rampage were held without a power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill in the game.
San Antonio and Rockford will reconvene for a 3 p.m. matchup on Sunday at the AT&T Center to celebrate T-Bone’s birthday.