The Chicago Wolves left little doubt Friday night who owned the Allstate Arena.
There's bound to be some divided loyalty when the Rockford IceHogs make the trek down the tollway as fans come out to see the Blackhawks' top farm club take on the Wolves.
After a slow start by both clubs following the American Hockey League's all-star break, the Wolves erased a 1-0 first-period deficit and skated past the IceHogs 4-2 despite being outshot 32-18.
Things got pretty nasty in the third period when a pair of bouts broke out at the same time halfway at the 9:51 mark.
Just another friendly game in the eighth matchup up of the season between these two teams.
"I think that based on the fact that this team has played so well, Rockford as of late, they know time's running out on their run for the playoffs, and they're probably thinking that it's through us that they're going to get there," said Wolves coach Craig MacTavish, whose team improved to 25-16-1-3 with its fourth straight win. "I think this was a playoff-style atmosphere."
The Wolves hold a 5-3 advantage in the season series. Rockford coach Ted Dent tried to downplay any extra significance to these teams getting together in Rosemont.
"Not really," said Dent, whose team is 20-22-1-4 and last in the Midwest Division. "It can be a tough place to play at times. They get good crowds here. Sometimes some of the Blackhawks management or the scouts will be there to watch the game. That's a little extra motivation for our guys to have a good game."
Chicago fans got another close-up look at winter Jimmy Hayes, who acquitted himself quite well in 13 games with the Blackhawks. Against the Wolves, Hayes came out strong but wound up a minus-2.
"It helps the confidence a lot going up there and having some success right way," Hayes said. "You go up there, play hard and see what happens. The thing I'm learning throughout my pro career is just to be consistent. The one thing I learned up there is that everything is done with a purpose."
Hayes said it was good to be back in the Chicago area, even as a visiting player.
"Obviously, it's their home rink," he said of the Wolves. "You take that into consideration, but you're playing here in Chicago. It's always fun to play here."
The Wolves got a pair of goals from Tim Miller and solid goaltending from Eddie Lack, who made 3 quick saves early in the third when the IceHogs threatened.
"Especially when we're up 3-1, you know they're going to come for a push," Lack said. "We held on pretty good."