Blunden celebrated his 26th birthday with a pair of goals – his fifth and sixth of the American Hockey League season – and teammates Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival also notched two points in the high-scoring affair which included four goals scored in less than two minutes.
The six goals matched the Bulldogs most productive effort this season. That came on Nov. 16 at home against the Toronto Marlies.
Hamilton opened the scoring at four minutes into the first period. The unassisted goal came when the puck bounced off the boards behind the net and onto the stick of Nattinen who jammed it behind goaltender Carter Hutton.
The IceHogs tied the score at 11:58 and started a scoring frenzy. Ryan Stanton’s rebound was picked up by Ben Smith who buried the puck past goalie Robert Mayer.
The ’Dogs regained the lead 31 seconds later on Blunden’s first after he backhanded Gallagher’s rebound past Hutton.
But Rockford again tied the score just 12 seconds later at 12:41 on a goal by Martin St. Pierre. Adam Clendening took a shot from the right point and the rebound was tucked away by St. Pierre.
Gallagher gave Hamilton a 3-2 lead 57 seconds later while the Bulldogs were on a on the powerplay. Gallagher’s quick snapshot from the slot flew by Hutton.
And again the IceHogs made it known they were not going to go away easy. With a man advantage and just over two minutes left in the opening period, Marcus Kruger banked the puck off of a body and into the net behind Mayer.
The Bulldogs grabbed another lead at 1:44 of the second stanza on a goal by Morgan Ellis to make it 4-3.
The ’Dogs grabbed their first two-goal lead of the game at 9:29 of the period on Blunden’s second goal of the night. He picked up the puck and made a forehand-to-backhand move and tucked the puck between Hutton and the post. Hutton was relieved by Alec Richards after the goal.
Rockford shaved the lead to one as St. Pierre picked up a loose puck in front of the net and snapped it past Mayer.
Gabriel Dumont added an empty netter at 19:47 of the final frame.
The Bulldogs remain undefeated in regulation time against the IceHogs with an all-time record of 7-0-0-1-1.
The Bulldogs travel to Milwaukee to play the Admirals on Sunday (Dec. 16) at 6 p.m.
1. HAM – Joonas Nattinen (5) – 4:00
2. RFD – Ben Smith (11) – (Brandon Saad, Ryan Stanton) 11:58
3. HAM – Mike Blunden (5) – (Brendan Gallagher) – 12:29
4. RFD – Martin St. Pierre (11) – (Adam Clendening, Jeremy Morin) – 12:41
5. HAM – Brendan Gallagher (7) – (Nathan Beaulieu, Michael Bournival) – 13:38 (PP)
6. RFD – Marcus Kruger (6) – (Martin St. Pierre, Nick Leddy) – 18:01 (PP)
7. HAM – Morgan Ellis (2) – (Michael Bournival, Stefan Chaput) – 1:44
8. HAM – Mike Blunden (6) – (Antoine Corbin) – 9:29
9. RFD – Martin St. Pierre (12) – (Brandon Saad, Ryan Stanton) – 12:55
10. HAM – Gabriel Dumont (4) – 19:47 (EN)