ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Alec Richards says he's comfortable facing shooters one-on-one. The Rockford Ice Hogs goaltender has had ample chance to back up his claim lately.
Richards turned aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced Sunday, including a Ben Walter penalty shot, as the Ice Hogs edged the Abbotsford Heat 3-2 in American Hockey League action.
Richards (3-1-0), who was making his fourth consecutive start, made some highlight-reel saves in the early going keeping the Heat off the scoreboard.
The Ice Hogs puck stopper turned aside a deflection by Lance Bouma and then denied Stefan Meyer on the rebound before denying Walter on a penalty shot.
Richards is getting a fair amount on practice on penalty shots. He stopped Bouma's attempt in Friday's 4-3 loss in Abbotsford.
"(The penalty shot) is an exciting play, obviously you don't see them too often," Richards said. "I've got confidence one-on-one with a guy, the pressure is on him to try to beat me so ? it?s a tough play, but I made two saves there."
Brandon Segal scored the game winner for the Ice Hogs (3-1-0). Segal cut through the slot, went around Heat defenceman Brendan Mikkelson, and then beat Leland Irving high glove side for his fourth of the season with 4:12 remaining in the third.
"He's got a good shot, good release and it was nice to see him finish that off for us," said Rockford head coach Ted Dent. "It's a process for our guys, we have a young team and we're learning how to play under pressure."
For the second consecutive game Jeremy Morin helped the Rockford Ice Hogs open an early 2-0 lead on the Heat. On Friday night the visitors managed to get three past Irving on five first period shots.
Sunday afternoon the Ice Hogs got a pair on six shots in the opening period.
Morin beat Irving high glove side for his second in as many games since returning from a concussion suffered last season. Chris DiDomenico, who picked up an assist on the goal, extended his point streak to three games.
"He's a natural goal scorer obviously first two games back, two goals," Dent said. "He hasn't played in nine months so he???s still got a ways to go in terms of getting into total game shape."
Brandon Pirri made it 2-0 converting on a feed from Jimmy Hayes.
Bad blood between the two teams appeared to spill over from their first meeting of the season as Dylan Olsen, Brandon Bolig of the Ice Hogs and Clay Wilson along with Mikkelson of the Heat all picked up coincidental roughing minors late in the first.
Fourteen seconds later Kyle Beach and Gaelan Patterson dropped the gloves at centre ice.
Abbotsford cut Rockford???s lead into half with a power play goal early in the middle frame as Mikkelson beat a screened Richards for his first of the season.
Walter had two excellent chances to tie things 2-2 before finally doing so 3:27 into the third.
After failing to connect on a penalty shot awarded to Walter when he was hauled down on a partial breakaway, the Heat veteran beat Richards high glove side with a wrist shot, which deflected off of Ice Hogs forward Brett McLean and in for his second of the season.
"Those starts are the key to our game, jumping on teams and really making this a tough place to play," said Mikkelson, who finished the night with two points. "We didn't really do a good job of that both games."
Abbotsford (3-1-0) finished the night 1-for-4 with the man advantage while killing off all five Rockford chances on the power play.
Irving made 11 saves for his first loss of the season. The loss also snapped the Heat's three-game winning streak.