AHL Central News: Griffins Remain the Team to Beat

The teams of the American Hockey League’s Central Division are coming off another busy and competitive week. After the dust settled, we did not see much moving within the division. The top three teams continue to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, while the remaining five teams are left to duke it out for the final spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Undefeated Week Keeps the Griffins in First

The Grand Rapids Griffins (30-16-3-4) swept their two-game weekend set with the San Antonio Rampage to remain atop the Central Division for another week. Their 67 points are the most in the Western Conference and give them a four-point cushion in the division. Only the Charlotte Checkers have more points in the AHL than the Griffins do right now.

Before the Griffins took to the ice, they learned that they were getting some reinforcements from the big club on Thursday. The Detroit Red Wings announced they reassigned both defenseman Dennis Cholowski and forward Martin Frk to Grand Rapids. Sporting their Team USA 1980 tribute jerseys on Friday night, the Griffins dominated the Rampage 5-1 with Wade Megan’s hat trick leading the way.

Colin Campbell Dylan McIlrath Grand Rapids Griffins
The Griffins show off their great 1980 Team USA tribute jerseys. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Griffins struck just over a minute into the game as Colin Campbell finished off a nice passing play for his fifth goal on the season. Megan doubled the lead late in the first period, while on a power play, by going to the front of the net and getting his stick on a Cholowski shot as it went by. The Griffins finished the first period with a 2-0 lead and 22 shots on goal.

The Rampage scored their lone goal of the night about seven minutes into the second period to take a 2-1 deficit into the final frame. Frk set up Megan’s second goal of the night with just over four minutes left in regulation. Filip Zadina scored an empty-net goal less than a minute later to increase the advantage to 4-1.

With just two seconds left on the clock, Megan completed the hat trick by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Frk. It marked Megan’s first three-goal game since Dec. 28, 2016, when he was a member of the Chicago Wolves, and the first hat trick by a Griffins skater this season.

Before Saturday night’s rematch, the Red Wings recalled defenseman Filip Hronek, as he continues to move back-and-forth between Grand Rapids and Detroit. The Griffins needed some late-game magic to add to the Rampage’s road misery with an improbable 3-2 overtime win. The Rampage opened the scoring with the power-play goal late in the first period. They added a second goal about eight minutes into the third period, which seemed to be enough, but the Griffins had other plans!

With just 1:50 left in regulation, the rebound off of Carter Camper’s shot hit a San Antonio defenseman and bounced over the goal line to give the home team life. With Patrik Rybar pulled for an extra attacker, Frk scored his first goal for the Griffins since his Calder Cup-clinching goal on June 13, 2017, with just 24 seconds left in regulation.

The onslaught continued just eight seconds into overtime as Zadina finished off a 2-on-1 rush to score the fastest overtime goal in franchise history.

Player of the Week: The Griffins had quite a few contributors over the weekend. Megan had his hat trick and Frk had four points in his first games back in the AHL this season. However, Zadina gets the nod for his two goals and four points. Red Wings fans have been waiting for the talented young winger to start producing at a consistent level. He is currently riding a four-game goal streak and a five-game point streak. He has five goals and nine points in his last eight games after putting up 10 goals and 20 points in his first 35 games of the season.

Filip Zadina Grand Rapids Griffins
Filip Zadina is starting to put it all together. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Feb. 20 vs Rockford IceHogs; Friday, Feb. 22 vs Texas Stars; Saturday, Feb. 23 @ Wolves

Wild Struggle Through Weekend in Illinois

The Iowa Wild (27-16-2-4) picked up two points over the weekend, but they cannot be happy about losing a pair of games they could have easily won. Their 63 points have them in second place, four points behind the Griffins and two points ahead of third place.

The Wild had to dress seven defensemen in both of their games last week, and for about 38 minutes on Saturday, they looked like they were going to earn an easy win at the IceHogs. Instead, they coughed up a 4-0 lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout.

For the league-leading 33rd time this season, the Wild scored the first goal of the game and the lone tally of the opening period. While on the power play, Brennan Menell blasted home a shot from just inside the blue line with less than two minutes left in the opening frame.

They took control of the game with a pair of early second-period goals. J.T. Brown scored in his second straight game, finishing off a give-and-go play with Gerry Mayhew just 20 seconds into the period. Sam Anas increased the lead to 3-0 just 90 seconds later with another power-play goal.

Wild right wing J.T. Brown
J.T. Brown has been a welcomed addition to Iowa’s lineup. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Mayhew completed his three-point evening by extending his goal streak to four straight games. Just seconds after jumping out of the penalty box, Mayhew streaked up the left side and gave the Wild 4-0 lead with less than four minutes left in the sandwich frame. It all went downhill from there as the IceHogs got on the board with a power-play goal late in the second period. Rockford cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third period and had the Iowa lead down to a single goal with nine minutes left to play.

The IceHogs forced overtime with four minutes left in regulation. After an exciting, yet scoreless, overtime session, the game headed to a shootout. In the skills competition, Kaapo Kahkonen gave up a goal in the third round while Anas, Mayhew and Dmitry Sokolov were all denied on their attempts.

The Wild did not have long to stew over the loss as they were back on the ice the following afternoon at the Wolves. Despite controlling the pace of play for much of the night and only giving up 13 shots on goal, the Wild fell 2-1 in overtime. The Wolves scored the only goal of the opening frame, but Brown answered 4:30 into the second period to even things up. Mason Shaw found Brown all alone at the far post and he tapped in his pass for his third goal in as many games.

The game headed to overtime with the Wild leading 30-11 in shots, but the Wolves earned the extra point by finishing off a 3-on-1 rush. The 13 shots allowed on goal set a franchise record for the fewest in a game. Even though their point streak was extended to five games, the Wild could not be happy with how their weekend went.

Player of the Week: Brown, a veteran of 344 NHL games, spent much of this season with Minnesota, but he has been great in his limited time in the AHL. He scored in both games over the weekend and has three goals and six points in five games with Iowa this month. His production comes at a time when forwards Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin and Kyle Rau are all up in the NHL.

The Week Ahead: Tuesday, Feb. 19 vs Stars; Thursday, Feb. 21 vs San Jose Barracuda; Friday, Feb. 22 vs Barracuda

Wolves Get Back on Track After Road Woes

The third-place Wolves (28-17-5-1) played far from their best hockey of the season last week. After they dropped back-to-back games at the Manitoba Moose, they pulled within two points of second place with a big overtime win over Iowa on Sunday. The Wolves continued their road trip with a two-game set at the Moose, beginning with Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss. The Wolves were outplayed for much of the game and found themselves down 4-0 midway through the third period.

The team showed a sense of urgency over the final eight minutes of the game. The AHL’s leading point producer, Daniel Carr, got the Wolves on the board by redirecting an Erik Brannstrom point shot into the Manitoba net for his 26th goal of the season. The power-play tally marked the fifth consecutive game in which Carr has lit the lamp.

Daniel Carr, Chicago Wolves
Daniel Carr is having an MVP worthy season in Chicago. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Curtis McKenzie deflected a Dylan Coghlan shot to cut the lead to 4-2 with 27 seconds left in the third period, but it was too little, too late to mount a serious comeback. The Wolves outshot the Moose 40-23 in Friday night’s rematch, but they still fell to the Moose 3-2. T.J. Tynan opened the scoring about 12 minutes into the first period while they had an extra attacker on the ice during a delayed penalty.

A pass took a fortunate bounce off a skate and Tynan swatted the puck into the net to become the seventh Wolves skater to hit the 10-goal mark on the season. The Moose answered with a pair of second-period goals to take their first lead of the night late in the middle frame. They added an insurance goal eight and a half minutes into the third period.

Carr cut the lead to 3-2 with just over a minute left in regulation by tucking home a nice pass by McKenzie. The goal was Carr’s AHL-leading 27th of the season and pushed his goal streak to six straight games. The hockey gods had a funny way of evening things out when the Wolves returned home to face the Wild on Sunday afternoon. After putting up 40 shots and losing on Friday, the Wolves won 2-1 in overtime despite being outshot 32-13.

Brooks Macek put the Wolves up 1-0 at the 7:24 mark of the opening period by scoring from the top of the right circle. It was the 33rd time this season that the Wolves scored the game’s first goal, tying them for the league lead with the Wild.

Iowa evened things up early in the second period, but a great performance by goaltender Max Lagace got the game to overtime. Brannstrom won the game for Chicago 3:35 into the extra time by finishing off a 3-on-1 rush. Carr was unable to extend his goal streak to seven games, but he did get the primary assist on the game-winning goal. Lagace made 31 saves, including some highlight reel worthy stops, to pick up the win.

“I wanted to win really bad,” Lagace said with an ice-pack on his left knee after the victory. “I think the guys played really well. Obviously, if you look at the shot clock it tells a different story, but I thought our D did a great job clearing out the rebounds and not giving up many odd-man rushes.”

Player of the Week: The Wolves have had a long tradition of bringing in talented veterans to help them make a run at the Calder Cup. McKenzie fits that mold as he captained the Stars team that came just two wins shy of a championship last spring. The gritty veteran picked up his ninth goal of the season and led the team with four points. He is currently fourth on the team with 24 assists on the season.

Curtis McKenzie, Chicago Wolves
Curtis McKenzie is hoping for another long postseason run. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Thursday, Feb. 21 vs Stars; Saturday, Feb. 23 vs Griffins; Sunday, Feb. 24 vs Stars

IceHogs Find More Magic to Remain in Playoff Spot

The IceHogs (25-21-3-5) roller-coaster season continued last week. After dropping Tuesday’s game with the Stars, they picked up four points over the weekend to conclude a six-game homestand. They have won eight of their last 10 games and their 58 points have them in the fourth and final playoff spot.

The IceHogs began their week by hosting the Stars on Tuesday night. They came up just short in a very entertaining, wide-open game, dropping a 3-2 decision in regulation. The Stars scored the lone goal of the first period on a shot that changed directions right in front of goaltender Kevin Lankinen.

The IceHogs have had one of the worst power-play units for the majority of the season, but it has become effective over the past few games. Jacob Nilsson evened things up with an early second-period power-play goal. Luke Johnson’s shot went through the legs of the goaltender and Nilsson was at the side of the net to guide in over the goal line.

On the flip side, the penalty kill has been an issue for the IceHogs of late when it has been rock-solid for much of the season. The Stars answered about four minutes later with a power-play tally to take a 2-1 lead. They added a second power-play goal early in the third period which proved to be the difference in the game.

Victor Ejdsell, who used his feet to create multiple scoring chances on the night, made things interesting by cutting the deficit to one with just over three minutes left in regulation. The IceHogs continued to apply pressure of the final minutes of the game, but they could not draw even.

Victor Ejdsell
Victor Ejdsell has been finding his game of late. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Saturday’s game against the Wild looked like a lost cause for the first 38 minutes as they found themselves buried deep in a 4-0 hole. Jordan Schroeder breathed some life into the BMO Harris Bank Center with a power-play goal late in the second period.

Johnson cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third period as a Henri Jokiharju shot from the point hit him in front of the net and got in behind Kahkonen. Schroeder struck again, just over five minutes later, with a one-timer from the slot to pull the home team to within one goal.

Defenseman Joni Tuulola forced overtime with four minutes left in regulation with a high wrist shot from the left dot. The game headed to a shootout after an exciting overtime session did not produce a goal. Ejdsell scored in the third round of the shootout while Lankinen stopped all three Wild attempts to complete the epic comeback.

“It’s been creeping in our game a little bit, our slow starts,” interim head coach Derek King said in his post-game interview. “Then we play with some urgency halfway through second and into the third. The message to them after the game was the way we played in third, do that in the first and second and the wins may become a little easier.”

The IceHogs were right back at it the following night and they received King’s message in a 5-2 win over the Rampage. Johnson started the scoring midway through the first period and Schroeder stayed hot by doubling the lead with a minute to go in the opening frame. The Rampage answered with a pair of goals in the second period to send the game deadlocked into the final period.

Less than five minutes into the third period, Brandon Davidson broke the tie by getting to the rebound off a Nilsson shot and tipping it over the goal line. The eventual game-winner was Davidson’s first with the IceHogs, who had been out of the lineup since Jan. 21 with a lower-body injury. William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey added empty-net goals late in the game to cap off the scoring.

Player of the Week: The IceHogs had three different players pick up five points last week in Johnson, Jokiharju and Nilsson. Johnson gets the nod after leading the team with three goals. He has done a great job filling the offensive void left when leading scorer Dylan Sikura was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this month. He has six goals in his last 10 games.

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Feb. 20 @ Griffins; Saturday, Feb. 23 @ Hershey Bears; Sunday, Feb. 24 @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Admirals Lose Ground in Playoff Race

The Milwaukee Admirals (23-20-9-1) split their pair of games last week and are still on the outside looking in when it comes to a postseason berth. Their 56 points have them two points out of the final playoff spot, but also only three points out of last place.

The Admirals concluded their disappointing, season-high nine-game homestand with a 2-1 loss to the Rampage, a team who came in with just four road wins all season. Milwaukee only earned seven out of a possible 18 points, and if they miss the playoffs, you can look back at this stretch as a huge missed opportunity.

After giving up a first-period goal off a set faceoff play, the Admirals drew even about eight minutes into the sandwich frame. The new guy, Adam Helewka, redirected a Vince Pedrie shot into the San Antonio net for his first goal with the Admirals.

The Rampage scored the eventual game-winning goal on the power play, early in the third period. Tyler Gaudet thought he tied the game late in the period, but the goal was waived off because his stick was ruled to be above the crossbar when he made contact with the puck. The Admirals were unable to draw even during the final 2:30 afterward.

The Admirals were back on the road on Sunday with a crazy, back-and-forth, 6-5 victory at the Moose. The exciting win snapped the Admirals’ six-game losing streak and the Moose’s 12-game home point streak. Helewka and Duncan Siemens both scored to build an early 2-0 lead in the first period. The Moose answered to tie the game with two goals in the first 2:47 of the second period.

The Admirals responded quickly and often as Joe Pendenza and Eeli Tolvanen restored the Admirals’ two-goal lead before Helewka added a second goal to give Milwaukee a 5-2 lead heading into the second intermission. The Moose had no intention of rolling over in the third period as they scored a shorthanded tally about seven minutes into the final frame. They then cut the lead to 5-4 with just under seven minutes to play.

Matt Donovan scored a 175-foot empty-net goal with under two minutes remaining in the game. The goal became the game-winner because the Moose answered nine seconds later to cut the lead to 6-5, but they were unable to draw any closer.

Player of the Week: When Helewka was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes earlier this month, he became the Admirals’ leading scorer with 31 points. He has fit right in and led the team with three goals in two games last week to go along with an assist. Since arriving in Milwaukee, Helewka has three goals and five points in four games.

The Week Ahead: Friday, Feb. 22 @ Cleveland Monsters; Sunday, Feb. 24 @ Monsters

Stars Lose Top Scorer to the NHL

The sixth-place Stars (25-21-3-2) won two out of their games last week to stay within striking distance of a playoff position. They currently have 55 points and are just three points behind the fourth-place IceHogs. The Stars concluded their four-game road trip by gaining two points on the IceHogs with a 3-2 win in Rockford Tuesday night.

Michael Mersch scored the lone goal of a very fast-paced opening period. He got to the front of the net and redirected a Nikolas Hansson shot from the right point into the IceHogs net for his 12th of the season.

The IceHogs answered with a power-play goal to tie the game early in the second period. Travis Morin responded with a power-play goal of his own about four minutes later. The rebound off a Justin Dowling shot went to the veteran in the slot and he used his backhand to swat the puck into the open net.

Joel L’Esperance increased the Stars lead to 3-1 with his league-leading 27th goal of the season early in the third period with another power-play tally. Rockford did not go away easily as they brought heavy pressure for the remainder of the game. They cut the lead to 3-2 with about three minutes left, but Phillippe Desrosiers stood tall and made 28 totals saves for the win.

On Friday, the Dallas Stars announced that they recalled Joel L’Esperance. The 23-year-old forward is enjoying a tremendous rookie season and this will be his first taste of the NHL after signing as a free agent last July. AHL All-Star Denis Gurianov was reassigned to Texas in a corresponding move.

Later that night, the Stars had a successful return to home ice with a 2-0 win over the Tucson Roadrunners. It took a little while, but Robbie Payne finally opened the scoring about eight minutes into the second period. He fired the puck into the top left corner for his first goal of the season. Mersch cashed in while on the power play with less than five minutes left in the middle frame. He scored off a rebound from a shot by Morin for his 100th career AHL goal.

The Roadrunners did not go down without a fight as they fired 12 shots on goal during the final frame. Desroisers stopped all 29 shots he faced on the night to pick up his second career shutout. Saturday night’s rematch did not go quite as well as the Stars fell 4-1 to their guests from Arizona.

The Roadrunners scored their first goal of the weekend early in the first period. Dowling and the Stars responded with the game-tying goal just 65 seconds later. Gurianov was able to maneuver his way through three defenders before setting up Dowling in front of the net. Tucson scored in the final seconds of the second period before adding two more goals in the final frame. The Stars got 33 shots on goal, but Adin Hill only allowed the one goal on the night.

Player of the Week: Mersch had himself a very productive week. He found the scoresheet in all three games and finished the week with a team-high two goals, three assists and five points. The 27-year-old veteran has been averaging a point-per-game over his last seven contests and is up to 14 goals on the season. He is within striking distance of the fourth 20-goal season of his AHL career.

The Week Ahead: Tuesday, Feb. 19 @ Wild; Thursday, Feb. 21 @ Wolves; Friday, Feb. 22 @ Griffins; Sunday, Feb. 24 @ Wolves

Moose Never Want to Leave Home

The Moose (24-22-3-2) continued to play well on home ice last week as they earned four out of a possible six points. They are in seventh place with 53 points and are five points out of the final playoff spot. They will need some help to get there, but as we’ve seen all season long, things can change very quickly in the Central.

On Tuesday, Sami Niku was reassigned to the Moose by the Winnipeg Jets. The talented young defenseman has three goals and 12 points in his 19 AHL games this season.

The Moose might be near the bottom of the division, but they have been unbeatable on home ice of late. They extended their home point streak to 11 games with a 4-2 win over the Wolves on Wednesday night and they have not lost in regulation at Bell MTS Place since Dec. 22.

Jansen Harkins opened up the scoring, while the teams were skating 4-on-4, about nine and a half minutes into the game. About five minutes later, Hunter Fejes doubled the lead by redirecting a Cam Maclise shot from the point into the Wolves net. Marko Dano finished off an odd-man rush by tapping in a great pass from Alexis D’Aoust to increase the lead to 3-0 seven minutes into the second period. Michael Spacek put the cherry on top of a pretty passing play to make it 4-0 midway through the final frame.

The Wolves scored a pair of goals off redirections in the final seven and a half minutes of the game, but were unable to draw any closer before the clock ran out. Eric Comrie made 20 saves for the win.

Eric Comrie, Manitoba Moose
Eric Comrie helped extend the Moose’s home point streak. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Moose extended their home point streak to 12 games with a 3-2 victory in Friday night’s rematch with the Wolves. The Wolves took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to some help from the equipment as the Moose hit two crossbars during the opening period.

The Moose tied the game with a power-play goal about nine minutes into the second period as Seth Griffith set up Spacek’s second goal in as many games. Maclise’s first goal of the season gave the Moose a 2-1 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the middle frame.

The lead was extended to 3-1 midway through the third period as Griffith finished off a nice passing play with Logan Shaw and Jimmy Oligny. The Wolves cut the lead to 3-2 with just over a minute to go, but Comrie’s 38 saves were enough to hold on. The Moose’s home-ice point streak came to an end on Sunday in a highly entertaining 6-5 loss to the Admirals.

After Milwaukee built a 2-0 in the first period, the Moose came out firing during the second stanza. Skyler McKenzie got to a loose puck and slipped it into the Admirals net one minute into the second period to cut the lead in half. Less than two minutes later, Harkins went bar-down from the circle to tie the game.

The craziness continued as the Admirals regained the lead just 19 seconds later. They added two more before the period came to an end to extend their lead to 5-2 and chase Comrie from the crease. The Moose did not go down without a fight as J.C. Lipon’s shorthanded goal seven minutes into the third period got things rolling again. D’Aoust’s long-range shot found the back of the net with 6:45 to play to bring the Moose to within one goal.

McKenzie nearly tied the game a couple of minutes later, but his shot hit the post and stayed out. The Admirals added an empty-net goal, but Lipon responded with a second goal just nine seconds later. Unfortunately, they were unable to score the equalizer in the 1:08 of the game after cutting the lead to 6-5.

Player of the Week: Spacek was one of two Moose players to have two goals and four points on the week. He scored at least one point in all three games last week. He is now second on the team with 24 assists and third in scoring with 32 points.

Michael Spacek Manitoba Moose
Michael Spacek earns player of the week honors. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Feb. 20 @ Toronto Marlies; Friday, Feb. 22 @ Laval Rocket; Saturday, Feb. 23 @ Rocket

Rampage Grind Out a Tough Week on the Road

If the Rampage (24-23-5-0) could play all 76 games at home, they’d be a Calder Cup juggernaut. Unfortunately, they have to play half their games on the road, including four last week. The Rampage picked up three points to bring their season total to 53. They are tied with the Moose but sit in eighth place because played one more game.

We’ve documented the Rampage’s struggles on the road all season long, but they started their week with just their fifth road win on the campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over the Admirals. Jordan Kyrou extended his point streak to eight games by opening the scoring 11:22 into the first period. Kyrou took a Trevor Smith faceoff win in the right circle and quickly fired a wrist shot into the net for his 13th goal of the season.

The Admirals tied the game about eight minutes into the second period and the score remained even until 4:30 in the third period. While on the power play, Kyrou found defenseman Mitch Reinke in the left circle where he blasted home a one-timer. Sammy Blais picked up the secondary assist to continue the hot streak that has seen him pick up a point in 13 of his last 14 games.

Milwaukee appeared the game with less than three minutes remaining, but the goal was waived off as it was hit into the net with a high stick. Jared Comeau made 24 saves to lead the Rampage to their first road win since Jan. 4. The road trip continued on to Grand Rapids for back-to-back games against the Griffins starting Friday night. The Rampage were terrorized by their former teammate, Megan, who racked up a hat trick in 5-1 Griffins win.

Nolan Stevens scored the lone Rampage goal, about seven minutes into the second period, by redirecting a Jordan Schmaltz shot into the net. Coreau made 42 saves in his first start in Grand Rapids as a visitor. It was his first loss to the Griffins, a team he won 103 games for between 2013-18.

After the game, Blais was recalled by the St. Louis Blues. The Rampage recalled defenseman Travis Brown from the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL to take Blais’ spot on the AHL roster. The Rampage appeared to be on their way to their second win of this road trip, but the Griffins stormed back late to steal 3-2 overtime victory.

Stevens opened the scoring for the Rampage for the second straight game, giving them a 1-0 lead with just over four minutes left in the first period. While on a power play, he got to a Jakub Jerabek rebound and buried it for his sixth goal of the season. Mark Cooper doubled the lead eight minutes into the third period by scoring off a Niko Mikkola rebound for his first career AHL goal.

Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick had some bad luck with just 1:50 left in regulation as the rebound off a Griffins shot hit off the leg of his own defender and got in behind him to cut the lead to 2-1. He would be injured on the game-tying goal with 24 seconds left to play. Coreau had to come in to replace Fitzpatrick and he allowed a goal on the only shot he saw just eight seconds into overtime.

Martin Frk, Grand Rapids Griffins and Ryan Olsen, Jordan Schmaltz and Jared Coreau, Chicago Wolves
Goaltender Jared Coreau has appeared in 17 straight games for the Rampage. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Rampage’s busy week ended Sunday evening in Rockford with a 5-2 loss to the IceHogs; a game that was much closer than the final score indicates. The IceHogs scored the lone goal of the opening frame and doubled their lead a minute into the second period. Less than three minutes later, the Rampage got on the board as Cooper swatted home the puck after Adam Musil’s initial shot rang off the crossbar.

Joey LaLeggia drew the Rampage even at the 6:25 to quickly complete the comeback. The defenseman was down at the side of the net where he found a rebound and swept it into the Rockford net for his eighth goal of the season, which leads all San Antonio defensemen. Unfortunately, that was the final goal of the day for the Rampage. The IceHogs broke the tie early in the third period before adding a pair of empty-net goals late in the game to win going away.

Player of the Week: Through his brief, 20-game AHL career, Cooper has not been known for his goal scoring. That changed over the weekend as he scored his first career AHL goal on Saturday night and followed it up with his second the following afternoon. He joined Stevens as the only player to score than one goal last week. The Rampage will take offense from anywhere they can get it these days.

The Week Ahead: Friday, Feb. 22 @ Ontario Reign; Saturday, Feb. 23 @ San Diego Gulls

It will be interesting to see how the standings look after this upcoming week as many of the teams are playing games outside of the Central Division. It should be another fun week to track.