Pulled Pork – Checkers defeat IceHogs 4-3 in the shootout

Wow.  What a game.  Last time I was in Rockford (December 30, 2011), the Checkers also needed extra time to determine a winner.  But in December, those two points didn’t seem nearly as crucial.  Tonight, the Checkers needed these two so they could have a chance at qualifying for the post season.  Tomorrow, if they can get a single point in Milwaukee, they will make it to the playoffs (though none of the games will be played at home…)

In goal for Charlotte was Justin Peters, and for Rockford, Kent Simpson in his first professional game.  He just completed his fourth (and final) year in Everett, where he was a teammate of Rasmus Rissanen.  Until the shootout, Simpson was phenomenal, especially against a Checkers team that was fiercely aggressive and not afraid to drive to the net over and over again.

A few observations about the game, and the players who won it for Charlotte:

  • Chris Durno is a beast against Rockford.  Last time I saw him, he had two fighting majors, and while he didn’t drop the gloves tonight, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he did.  He pushed all night long, forcing IceHogs off the puch, and driving to the net time and time again.
  • Justin Krueger was hands down the best Checkers defenseman tonight.  He’s consistently where he needs to be, and blocked shots that otherwise could have been IceHog goals.
  • Rasmus Rissanen makes up the other half of my favorite defensive pairing.  As the season has progressed, I’ve become more and more impressed with this guy.  He’s a smart player, and a huge asset to the team.
  • Bobby Sanguinetti had another great game.  Honestly, for the second night in a row, it was a game about defense, and seeing what the Checkers need out of their blue liners.

Things I learned in Rockford:

  • Hockey played in a building with broken air conditioning, and seats only slightly below the rafters makes for a very warm game.
  • Lighting in the BMO Harris Bank Centre is far superior to that of the Civic Center in Peoria, at least according to the photos Chasing Checkers official photographer showed me.
  • Though it was warm and a bit stuffy, Rockford’s arena has the best popcorn in the AHL, and that made up for the temp.
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