By Jon Fromi
The Rockford IceHogs wrapped up their preseason with a nice offensive game, besting the Peoria Rivermen 5-3. I took it upon myself to purchase the AHL Live stream of the contest and share some observations along with my thoughts on the eve of what will hopefully be a successful season for the Hogs.
This is just me commenting as a fan, much as I will whenever I offer up thoughts from my seat at the BMO Center. Like you guys, I know what I do about the behind the scenes dealings mainly from what Chris Block reports. I’m not going to provide his sparkling brand of analysis-mostly because I’m watching from the opposite side of the rink.
Anyway, I’ve lived about 30 minutes from Rockford for the bulk of my life. I write Blackhawks recaps for Chris, which currently means that I don’t write Blackhawks recaps for Chris. What follows are Hogs thoughts as the game streamed into my basement. (To answer the obvious question, I also inhabit the upstairs and I, not my parents, own the house.
7:00 p.m.–Sat down to my computer only to discover that it wasn’t set up to view the AHL Live software. By the time I get my ducks in a row, Hogs are down a goal. Oh, there also is no audio for tonight’s game. So this game is going to need a soundtrack.
Back in my college days, we used to drive from Western Illinois to check out Rivermen games at Carver Arena in their IHL days. Hey, if you lived in Macomb, you would too. We got in for three bucks and tried to forget they were the Blues affiliate. We also saw Tesla in that building, so I’ll groove on Mechanical Resonance in lieu of Mike Peck.
7:20 p.m.–Marcus Kruger hits number 24 along the boards and something must have come loose. While the Carver Arena crew takes care of the problem, we’re treated to a lady dancing and rolling around on a car.
7:26 p.m. — Back to action. The lineup is full of the guys who will likely start the season with Rockford. I noticed that Byron Froese (known in our circle as Pompous Madcap, via Cheers), Terry Broadhurst, Kent Simpson and David Gilbert were reassigned when I checked out the IceHogs site this morning. Gilbert apparently got sent to Bloomington of the CHL. Doesn’t sound good for him.
Mac Carruth, who I thought looked good Thursday, is going back to Portland and playing his last year of juniors in the WHL. Simpson must be their man in Toledo. This means that Alec Richards is going to back up Carter Hutton. I hope this means that the goalie job is not going to be a tandem. If the Hogs want to win, Hutton should be starting most nights.
7:30 p.m. — Jimmy Hayes just scored-took a nice pass from Kruger and beat Jake Allen to tie it up with 5:06 left in the first. Hayes is playing with Kruger and Brandon Saad on a line that could just as easily be taking shifts in Chicago provided they decide to have any games.
7:36 p.m. — Going on the power play with 2:23 to go. Nick Leddy is out there, of course. I noticed he got Brian Connelly minutes most of Thursday night. The first PP team spent most of the two minutes out there the first time they had the chance against Milwaukee. This time they don’t get much in the form of scoring opportunities. Looks like we’re knotted at one at the first intermission.
Looks like this team is going with 14 forwards to begin the season, not counting Brandon Svensden, who is hurt and may not be ready to play for awhile. Chris De Sousa got released today and I don’t see any names who are likely to go down to Toledo. I guess if the ‘Hawks want to get Rob Flick more minutes he could go down. Seems like that would have happened today, though. Maybe Phillipe Paradis, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them just go with what they have.
7:55 p.m. — Puck drops and the second period are underway. We’re going on five minutes and neither team has mustered a shot on goal. Rockford just got called for icing, ala the new experimental no-touch rule.
8:04 p.m. — Looks like Jeremy Morin just got sent to the box for hooking. Peoria power play in the ninth minute…and the Hogs come up with a shortie! 2-1 Rockford this time Hayes feeds Kruger for the goal. Now all he needs is the fight…
8:07 p.m. — Saad breaks free and puts one past Allen. 3-1 Hogs. Nice job keeping the puck with a guy draped all over him. With that, each member of that line has a goal tonight. I also move on to The Great Radio Controversy for the rest of this skate.
8:12 p.m. — Ben Youds called for interference and the Hogs are once again on the PK with a little over seven left in the middle frame. I don’t think Peoria managed a shot in their previous power play, but they look a little more organized on this one.
8:14 p.m.—Peoria’s Derek Nesbitt got a puck right in front of Hutton from Brent Regner and with 5:55 cuts the gap to 3-2 Hogs.
8:23 p.m. — Second period down, still up 3-2. Rockford has 26 players on the roster as it stands. I find it hard to believe that they will keep all nine defensemen when play starts next week. Klas Dahlbeck hasn’t played in the preseason, so it isn’t hard to think he’ll be elsewhere. They could keep eight on the blue line, or one additional guy could be reassigned.
If that’s the case, it looks to be Ben Youds, who played tonight, or Shawn Lalonde, who did not. That is assuming that Adam Clendening is not going to miss any time after leaving Thursday’s game. I guess we’ll find out Sunday.
8:38 p.m.–Play starts in the third period. It looks like Hutton will play the full game, although the IceHogs site suggested that he and Richards would split time in goal. Mind you, I am not complaining.
8:42 p.m. — Martin St. Pierre is listed at 5-9, but he makes Pete LeBlanc look like a giant. He can’t be more than 5-6 in his stocking feet. Doesn’t matter; I still love this signing.
8:45 p.m.–Hogs pick up a loose puck coming out of their zone, but can’t convert the 2-on-1 chance. Still, they’ve given up just five shots on goal in the last 25 minutes and are now going on the power play after a holding call against Peoria.
8:48 p.m.– Hogs kept the pressure on, but no dice.
8:54 p.m.–Ten to play, still up a goal, and doing a fairly nice job controlling the pace of the game. I know its preseason, but it’s nice to think that the IceHogs could get off to a start that didn’t see them at the bottom of the conference by the end of the month.
Even without all the lockout guys, St. Pierre and incumbents like Pirri, Morin, LeBlanc, Smith, Hutton and (add your fave rave here) should be expected to get off to a better start than the two previous seasons.
8:58 p.m.–Hutton stops his 12th shot of the night, followed by some pushing and shoving. We get a little of the same in front of their net a few seconds later.
9:00 p.m.–The Flick, Bollig and Beach line put the IceHogs up 4-2. Bollig backhands a rebound back past Allen to return the cushion to two at the 13:39 mark. The rebound came after Joe Lavin blasted one from the point.
I love this line combo for several reasons. Teams are going to hate playing against them, and Beach shouldn’t have to make questionable decisions with line mates like Flick and Bollig to handle the chippy work.
9:05 p.m.– As usual, we’re outshooting the hell out of the opposition. 28-15 with just over two minutes left to play. Morin and one of the Rivermen do some pushing and shoving. Morin and now Beach (yes, I jinxed it) go into the box for the Hogs and just like that Peoria is a man up. They get a goal from Phil McRae with 89 ticks to go to tighten things up.
9:10 p.m. — Hayes gets an empty netter following the ensuing faceoff that should be enough to wrap up the preseason on a winning note. The final minute slips away and the IceHogs leave Peoria with a 5-3 win.
Good thing, too, because Jeff Keith’s telling me that the “Party’s Over”. Lights out.
Jon is also a featured Blackhawks and Chicago White Sox columnist at Bleacher Report.