Peoria, Ill. – As the preseason schedule went on, the Rockford IceHogs got better. The American Hockey League club knocked off the Peoria Rivermen 5-3 on Saturday at Carver Arena behind a strong showing from the line combination of Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad.
The trio combined for four goals and three assists and provided enough offense for Carter Hutton. Rockford finished the exhibition slate 2-1-0-0 after a 6-1 loss to the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday in the preseason opener and a 3-2 shootout win over the Milwaukee Admirals Thursday.
Adam Cracknell gave Peoria an early 1-0 lead on Saturday. The winger picked up a pass from Sergei Andronov in the Rockford zone and clanked a snap shot off the bottom of the cross bar and past Hutton at 3:53 of the opening period.
Rockford tied the score 1-1 with Hayes’ first marker on the night. Kruger and Saad set up Hayes, who fired the equalizer past Jake Allen at 14:54 of the first frame.
While shorthanded, that line combination put Rockford out front 2-1 in the second period. Hayes set up Kruger in transition and the center deeked out Allen at 7:41. Then just as Peoria returned to full strength, Saad pick off a puck at the Peoria blueline and beat Allen at 9:35 to extend the Rockford lead to 3-1.
After another Rockford penalty, Peoria reduced the Hogs lead back down to a goal. Winger Derek Nesbitt picked up a Brent Regner pass in front of Hutton and beat the IceHogs goalie five-hole at 14:05 to make it 3-2 Rockford.
In the third period, Brandon Bollig pushed Rockford back in front by a pair of goals. The winger picked up a rebound off of a Joe Lavin point shot and shelved a backhanded shot over Allen at 13:39.
The Rivermen closed the gap back to a goal with a power-play strike from Phil McRae at 18:31, but Hayes ended any hope for a Rivermen comeback when he buried an empty net tally at 19:00.
Hutton went the distance for Rockford making 13 saves while Allen finished with 24 stops in the loss. The Hogs finished 0-2 on the power play while Peoria was 2-4 on the advantage.