** Another huge back-to-back is upon the Rockford IceHogs this weekend as they attempt to climb back into a tough AHL West division playoff race.
40 games into the season, Rockford (19-16-1-4) is three games above .500, yet nine points out of the 4th and final playoff spot in their division. The IceHogs find hope though in that they own ‘games in hand’ on every team in their division and the majority of their second half will be spent facing those teams above them in the division.
So, while the season is far from over, every point is a big one.
Tonight the current 3rd seed in the West Division, Oklahoma City visits Rockford. These two teams have traded wild 6-5 decisions of late. The Hogs dropped a New Years Day game at Oklahoma City 2-1 on a night both IceHogs’ special teams units let them down.
Rockford has five games in hand on OKC, and trail them by nine points as well. A win tonight would put Rockford in line to reach the Barons once they catch OKC in the games played column.
Tomorrow night the San Antonio Rampage return for a rematch of this past Monday’ MetroCentre matinee, which the IceHogs took 2-1. All scoring in that one came in the third period. Goals on the Rockford side came first from Evan Brophey, then Hugh Jessiman.
San Antonio is 8 points up on Rockford and currently in 6th place. They also have played four more contests than the IceHogs to this point.
As we mentioned earlier this week, odds are the 5th place team in the West will wind up with more points than the 4-seed in the North division, thus sliding over and taking that spot. But competition for that spot will be fierce as teams currently 3rd through 7th are separated by just three points.
Games in hand don’t mean a thing if you don’t turn those into points. A mediocre start, coupled with being in the toughest division in the AHL leave Rockford with little room for error.
The IceHogs are 7-3-0-0 over the last ten games, their best stretch of the season. Kyle Beach, Evan Brophey and Hannu Toivonen have led the way, playing the best each of those three have to this point.