Jan 152011

Tonight the Rockford IceHogs will bus to Rosemont for their 5th of 10 matchups this season with the Chicago Wolves.

When you consider tonight Rockford will try for the 8th time this season to get 2 games above the .500 mark, these two points are essential.  It’ll also be their 4th try in the last fourteen days.

If the IceHogs want to be a playoff team they need to put some wins together.  And they must beat the teams above them in the standings.  They can achieve both tonight when they meet their Interstate-90 rivals.

Here’s some more detail on the Rockford IceHogs’ season and current place in the AHL West Division standings.

As we’ve noted in the past, the AHL playoff format is quite different than you see in the AHL.  The AHL is a 30-team league, slit by two conferences and four divisions overall.  The IceHogs reside in the West Division in the Western Conference.

For the playoffs, the top four teams play an intra-divisional playoff with one possible exception.  If the fifth-seeded team in one division has more points than the fourth-seed in their conference’s opposite division, the higher-seed gets the playoff berth.  In that case, the 5th seed would then participate in the other division’s playoff.  The winners of each division would then meet in the Conference championship and the winner of each conference then face off for the Calder Cup.

The West division as a whole is performing at a .590 winning percentage.  Meaning percentage of possible points earned of course.

Opposed to the North division, which is collecting .540 percent of points thus far this season.

Last night’s West Division scores
Houston-4 @ Chicago-3, SO
Texas-1 @ Rockford-3
Oklahoma City-4 @ Peoria-1 (Rivermen lead West w/ 53pts)

Tonight’s AHL-West division schedule
Rockford @ Chicago
Oklahoma City @ Peoria
Milwaukee @ Manitoba
Texas @ Peoria
Grand Rapids @ Houston

Rockford sits 8th and last in the West division heading into tonight’s game in Rosemont against the Chicago Wolves.  If you put the IceHogs in the North Division, they’d be in 7th place, but just 4 points out of 4th with 3 games in hand on current 4th seed Abbotsford.  In the West, Rockford is ten points behind 4th place Houston, who Rockford just lost to at home this past Wednesday night.

Right now the West’s 5th (Texas-48pts), 6th (Oklahoma City-48pts) and 7th (Chicago-47pts) all have more points than the Abbotsford Heat (43pts).  In fact, each of those teams would be in 3rd place in the North as of today.

So you can see Rockford’s target is the fifth seed in their division, which would put them in the North bracket and in a probably division semi-final (1st round) matchup with either Hamilton or Manitoba.

But it’s a long road.  And Rockford hasn’t exhibited the consistency they’ll need to climb the standings and leap-frog the three teams in front of them.

Tonight, 7th place Chicago (21-18-2-3, 47pts) is the opponent.  The Wolves have played a whopping 44 games coming into tonight, 6 more than Rockford (17-16-1-4, 39pts).

With those games in hand, a win tonight could put Rockford in good position to at least pull even with the Wolves once the IceHogs catch up in number of games played.  If Rockford can win inside regulation tonight, they’ll trim the distance between them and the Wolves to 6 points and Rockford would still have six games in hand.  Considering the IceHogs have consistently hovered around the .500 mark all season, you’d consider these two teams equals.

Rockford have never been more than 1 game above .500 and never more than 3 games below it all season.

Tonight is game number 39 for the Hogs.  Here’s the numbers on where they’ve stood after each of those first 38 games.

3x – 3gms below .500
6x – 2gms below .500
10x – 1gm below .500
11x – .500
8x – 1gm above .500

Attendance notes:

The AHL has seen a 5% increase in attendance to this point of the 2010-11 season from where they were exactly one year ago.  The AHL as a whole was averaging 4,583 fans per game up to Jan 14, 2010.  Through games ending Jan 14, 2011, the league is averaging 4,814 in announced attendance per game.

Rockford is also seeing an increase of 6% from this date last year.  Through their initial 22 home games a season ago, Rockford was averaging 3,479 fans per game.  This season, in 21 home games, they’re averaging 3,692.

On Wednesday vs Houston, the IceHogs announced a crowd of 2,865.  Last night with Texas in town, Rockford hosted a crowd of 3,327.  So, this week’s crowds were well below the average.

Who’s hot?

Kyle Beach: 3g, 3a, +4, 14sog in his last 5 games

Evan Brophey:  1 goal in each of his last 3 road games (3g, 1a).  Before that, Brophey had 1g, 1a in 12 games played away from MetroCentre.

IceHogs recently on the road
Jeremy Morin:  5g, 2a in his last 11 road games
Nick Leddy:  2g, 5a, -1, last 11 games on road before recall
Ryan Potulny:  4g, 1a over last 6 road games

Signs of trouble: IceHogs struggling on the road:
Igor Makarov: 0g, 5a, -3, last 17 road games
Jeff Taffe: No goals last 8 road games
Kyle Beach: 2g, 3a in his past 16 road games
Rob Klinkhammer: 1g (6a, +4) in his last 16 games on road

IceHogs current streaks of games held without a goal (reg season only):  Jassen Cullimore (44), Ryan Stanton (37), Garnet Exelby (36), Wade Brookbank (21), Simon Danis-Pepin (19), Chris DiDomenico (19), Brandon Pirri (15), Nick Leddy (12), Hugh Jessiman (9), Brandon Bollig (7), Kyle Hagel (6), Mathis Olimb (6), Evan Brophey (4), Pete Leblanc (4), Brian Connelly (2), Shawn Lalonde (2), Igor Makarov (2), Ben Smith (2), Jeff Taffe (2), Ivan Vishnevskiy (2), Rob Klinkhammer (1), Dylan Olsen (1)

-Exelby drought actually goes back further into 2003, when he last skated in the AHL, but we don’t have exact the exact numbers on him.  His last goal in the NHL was April 1st, 2010 vs Buffalo.


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