Author Archives: Chris Block

IceHogs Beat Themselves in Game 1; Pulkinnen Hat-Trick Leads Grand Rapids to 5-3 Win

By Chris Block

Going into the Game 1 of the this Western Conference Semifinal series with Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs had one primary focus – try to contain Griffins’ right winger Teemu Pulkkinen.

Rockford failed in that objective in Wednesday’s series opener as the Detroit Red Wings super-prospect struck for 3 goals in a 5-3 win over the visiting IceHogs.

Grand Rapids scored two minutes into the game when Michael Leighton misjudged a weak Kevin Porter backhander. The IceHogs tied the game 8:41 into the second frame when they took advantage of a terrible Griffins turnover in front of their own net and goalie Tom McCollum had no chance on a Mark McNeill one-timer from in tight.

Then the Pulkkinen show took center stage when he stored 3 minutes and 23 seconds apart later in the second to take a 2-goal lead heading into the third. Stephen Johns got the IceHogs back into the game with a snipe at 3:16 of the third period. Then Garret Ross tied the game when he tipped a Johns’ blast with 10:40 left in regulation.

But, the game was decided when the IceHogs allowed Pulkkinen to go the their net unchecked with under 3 minutes to go in a tied affair. Read more »

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Rockford IceHogs 2nd Round Playoff Schedule; Calder Cup Western Conference Semifinal versus Grand Rapids Griffins

2015 Calder Cup Western Conference Semifinals Series

Grand Rapids Griffins (#2) vs. Rockford IceHogs (#4)

Game 1: Wed May 6 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 2: Fri May 8 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 3: Wed May 13 – 7pm – BMO Harris Bank Center
Game 4: Thu May 14 – 7pm – BMO Harris Bank Center
Game 5: Sun May 17 – 4pm – BMO Harris Bank Center

Game 6: Tue May 19 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 7: Wed May 20 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids

-All Times Central
–For those with tickets to the game in Rockford, Game 3 is “Game D”, Game 4 (E) and Game 5 (F).

Tickets for Games 3-5 are available through TicketMaster or the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office at 815-968-5222.

If you live in the Rockford region, games are televised on digital channel 23.2 Antenna TV. That’s channel 436 on Comcast in the Rockford area only. 247 on Comcast in Rochelle; 101 on Mediacom Cable; 193 for Charter Communications.

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Blackhawks Take Game 1 From Minny 4-3, Teuvo Pots Game-Winner

By Chris Block

The Blackhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead after just 15 minutes of the first period in Game 1, Friday night at United Center.  Brandon Saad notched his third goal of postseason on an incredible power move and shot that he ripped by Devan Dubnyk at the 1:15 mark.  Patrick Kane and Marcus Kruger scored 124 seconds apart later in the period to give the Hawks command of the game.  Kane’s tally, also his 3rd of the playoffs, was set up by a great move (or, the $2M toe-drag, you could call it.) by Brad Richards entering the Wild zone.

But the Wild chipped away at the Hawks lead in the second period, and by the mid-way point of the second stanza, the game was tied 3-3.  Minnesota’s marksmen Jason Zucker, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund all scored to even the score at 1:21, 5:07 and 9:30 of the second respectively.

Neither starter, Dubnyk nor Corey Crawford were pulled from the game.  Crawford stopped 30 of 33 shots.  Dubnyk allowed 4 goals against 35 Blackhawks’ shots on net.

Chicago’s 4th and deciding goal came off the stick of Teuvo Teravainen with 59 seconds to go in the second period.  The line of Antoine Vermette, Patrick Sharp and Teravainen were doing their work down in the Wild zone when Teravainen fired a puck toward the net from the half wall.  Dubnyk might have been partially screened for a moment but he just whiffed at it with his glove and the puck sailed by him and into the net at 19:01 of the second.

The score remained that way throughout the 3rd period, though Minnesota’s Dubnyk had to come up with 15 saves in the final period to keep his team in the game.

Crawford’s win gives him a 2-1 record now in this postseason.  Crawford is now 9-3 lifetime in postseason play versus Minnesota.

The Hawks are now 11-7 in Game 1’s under Joel Quenneville. They’ve gone on to win 9 of those 10 prior series in which they’ve won Game 1 under their current coach.

Game 2 is Sunday night at 7:30pm central on CBC and Sportsnet 360 in Canada and on NBCSports Network in the States.

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IceHogs return to postseason after 4 years out; After a strong 2014-15, how will Rockford fare; Calder Cup 1st round preview

By Chris Block

Tonight, Rockford plays its first playoff contest since 2010 when they begin their best-of-5 opening round series with the Texas Stars in suburban Austin.

Rockford has lost the past 10 consecutive playoff games they have played. The American Hockey League record of most consecutive losses in postseason is 12, set by the Buffalo Bisons in the 1950s.  The IceHogs last playoff win came in Game 5 of their second round series with the Chicago Wolves in 2008, the IceHogs first season in the AHL. Rockford was up 3-2 in that series then lost games 6 & 7.  The Wolves would go on to with the Calder Cup that year.

While the IceHogs dominated the season series with Texas, this was about the worst draw Rockford could have asked for. The key to Rockford’s success against Texas during the regular season was catching the Stars at the right times, and a power play that ran at a 37.5% clip against the Stars this season.

Rockford can skate with any team in the West at 5-on-5. Where they have separated themselves for success is in getting elite goaltending from Michael Leighton, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta. Mac Carruth, who was in net for three games this season and went 2-1 with a shutout (at Chicago) is now the backup.

But aside from the goaltending, which, no mistake, is why the IceHogs are in the postseason, Rockford’s special teams were consistently the difference between a win and a loss in 2014-15.

Noting that, no team boasts better special teams than Texas.

Their combined special teams mark is 106.9 (86.9 PP + 20.0 PK). Texas ranks 3rd overall in the AHL, and tops in the Western Conference on the power play. Their penalty kill is 4th in the AHL and 2nd in the West. Read more »

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Dan Carcillo talks the death of Steve Montador, life away from, and after the game

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E9XLs4BDdjk

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Darling’s 42 saves in relief carry rallying Hawks to 4-3 win in double-OT of Game 1

By Chris Block

Opening night of the 2015 playoffs in Nashville had everything you might ask for an NHL postseason game: Double overtime, the return of a mega star, huge momentum shifts, trading scoring chances in end-to-end sequences, a dramatic game-winning goal, a blown 3-0 lead, a goalie yanking, an incredible goaltending performance, bad ice, dramatic scoring chances as a result of bad ice, bad penalty calls, bad non-penalty calls, heroes, goats and finally – one now huge goaltending controversy.

And that was just Game One.

The return of Patrick Kane just seven weeks after surgery to repair a broken left collarbone suffered on February 24 against the Florida Panthers was the big story coming into Wednesday’s playoff opener. Kane wasn’t in top form, but 75 percent or so was enough to make a big difference.

But the story coming out of the Hawks come-from-behind 4-3, double overtime victory in Game 1 is who will be the starter in Game 2.

Corey Crawford was victimized for 3 first period goals. The middle of those three was result of a Crawford turnover behind his net, but that was in part due to some bad luck in that the momentum of the puck as it approached the trapezoid slowed down as Crawford waited to play it. Read more »

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Rockford IceHogs look to make franchise history

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By Chris Block

The IceHogs return home on Wednesday night from last week’s 2-1 road trip when they host the Charlotte Checkers at the BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford.

Rockford closes out its regular season this week with three home games. They’ll welcome the Chicago Wolves on Friday, and the Toronto Marlies on Saturday night to wrap the season with 3 games in 4 nights.

Ted Dent’s team has solidified a playoff spot and now eyes a chance to win the Midwest division, currently led by the Grand Rapids Griffins, the affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. The IceHogs failed to qualify for postseason the past four years. They haven’t won a playoff game since Game 5 of the Conference semi-final series with the Chicago Wolves in 2008. Rockford is 0-10 in AHL playoff contests since that Game 5 in 2008. The AHL record for consecutive playoff losses is 12, set by the Buffalo Bisons in the 1950s.

Grand Rapids is one point up on Rockford. They close out the season with a 3-in-3 starting Thurday; three winnable games at Lake Erie and then home for a back-to-back set against Charlotte. Grand Rapids also currently holds the first tie-breaker, regulation wins, 42 to the IceHogs’ 41. So, Rockford will need help from Lake Erie and/or Charlotte in addition to picking up a minimum of 5 of 6 points if they’re to have a shot at jumping Grand Rapids and winning the division. Read more »

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Who cleared Kane, and at what risk?

By Chris Block

Patrick Kane returns tonight for the Blackhawks, seven weeks to the day since surgery to repair his fractured left collarbone. Of course, Kane’s return coincides with Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarter-Final series in Nashville against the Predators.

Original projections for Kane’s return were pegged by Blackhawks lead medical physician Dr. Michael Terry at 10 to 12 weeks.

Kane was medically cleared to return to action on Monday, less than 7 weeks since the surgery.

But who cleared Kane?

The Blackhawks released a short, and peculiar statement on Monday that was worded quite interestingly, evidently by Terry himself.

The following statement was issued [Monday April 13th] by Chicago Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry:

Patrick Kane suffered a broken left clavicle on February 24, and underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture on February 25. Patrick has been working extremely diligently with his rehabilitation and has recently returned to full-contact practice without any difficulty.

After discussions with Patrick and the team, and examining Patrick today, we collectively feel it is appropriate, with minimal risk, for him to return to full participation.”

That’s an incredible final sentence, there. Read more »

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Blackhawks-Predators Quarter-Final Schedule

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Special Audio: Tim Sassone Tribute podcast with Chris Kuc, Brian Hedger, Al Cimaglia and Lindsey Willhite

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By Chris Block

On Wednesday, I was honored to be joined by four friends of the late, great 25-year veteran of the Chicago Blackhawks beat, Tim Sassone.

Sassone was 58 when he succumbed to illness on March 25, 2014.

53 weeks from that day, his friends, former colleagues and competitors assembled to pay tribute to Sassone, one of the greatest sports writers Chicago has known.

I am joined by Al Cimaglia [Sirius/XM Radio] and Brian Hedger [NHL.com] for the bulk of the show. Cimaglia and Hedger swap stories of Sassone’s influence and generosity, while sharing their personal experiences and thoughts on the man each called a friend.

Then I welcome Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, Sassone’s closest friend on the Blackhawks beat. Kuc and Sassone worked alongside each other from 2007 up until Tim’s passing.

For the first ten minutes of his segment, Kuc helps us dissect the big news of Wednesday. We discuss Patrick Kane participating in his first Blackhawks practice since fracturing his collar bone five weeks ago, and speculate as to what Kane’s timetable for return looks like now.

Then, Kuc shares his experiences working alongside his great friend.

Hedger and Cimaglia stay with me a give their reactions to Kuc’s comments and more on Sassone at and away from the rinks.

Finally, I sit down with Lindsey Willhite, formerly a teammate of Sassone’s at the Daily Herald. Lindsey is now the Public Relations Director for the Chicago Wolves. He shares his experiences meeting and learning under Sassone, following Tim around the day the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup in Philadelphia and the time he answered Sassone’s desk phone at the Daily Herald offices and it was Jeremy Roenick on the other end of the line.

In closing, I give my thoughts on the impact Tim Sassone had on me and talk about having the opportunity to work alongside him myself and my regret in the last interaction I had with Tim.

Click to listen below, or Right-Click Here to Download the MP3 file

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