Feb 252016
 

By Chris Block

I finally had a chance to watch Rockford’s 6-4 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

Rockford reclaimed the top spot in the AHL Central Division with the victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. The IceHogs are now in Cleveland to face off with the Lake Erie Monsters this Friday and Saturday nights. For the Monsters, Friday and Saturday will mark their second and third games in as many nights as Lake Erie are hosting a rare three home games in three consecutive nights this week.

Marko Dano made his return to the lineup after missing the last 2 and 2/3 games with a head injury. He cleared his final protocol on Tuesday.

It was a weird game.

Rockford dominated the first period, scoring 3 unanswered first period goals. In the end, it was good they did because Milwaukee handled the IceHogs quite favorably for the next 40 minutes. Continue reading »

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Feb 212016
 

By Chris Block

UPDATE ON INJURED ‘HOGS

–Marko Dano was injured in a game against Manitoba Moose this past Wednesday when Moose defenseman Julian Melchiori rode Dano hard into the half wall in the Manitoba end. Dano lost his footing a bit as Melchiori finished his check and Dano crashed hard into the dasher boards. He stayed down for a moment then immediately skated off to the locker room and did not return. That was during the first period of Wednesday morning’s 5-2 IceHogs’ loss.

After Saturday’s game, IceHogs head coach Ted Dent updated Dano’s status.

“[Dano]’s getting better,” said Dent. “He’s day-to-day. Hopefully we’ll see him this week.”

Officially, Dano is out with an upper body injury.

The 21-year old Slovakian winger has just 4 goals in 33 games for the IceHogs and has been largely unimpressive since joining the Blackhawks organization.

–Kyle Cumiskey’s status remains a moderate mystery. The veteran blue liner hasn’t played since November 18th. Cumiskey began the season on the injury list and played in just 5 games in November before being sidelined again. Continue reading »

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May 132015
 

By Chris Block

Returning home for Games 3 through 5 of their best-of-seven series down 2-0 to Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs took to the ice on Wednesday night with an automatic sense of urgency in an almost must-win situation.

The IceHogs exhibited that urgency and desperation before a crowd of just 1,780 at BMO Harris Bank Center in a fiery and physical opening twenty minutes in Game 3.

That dominant first period set the table for an eventual 4-1 IceHogs victory.

Mark McNeill scored his 2nd goal of the postseason just 25 seconds into Grand Rapids’ first power play of the game, a controversial five minute major assessed midway into the first period. The breakaway goal gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead. Rockford’s penalty kill kept a consistent pressure on the Griffins’ power play throughout the 5 minute kill and prevented the visitor’s from tying the game.

Later, when Rockford got its first chance on the power play, Ryan Hartman banked a pass to himself at the Grand Rapids blue line and strode in alone the same way McNeill had earlier and beat Griffins’ starter Tom McCollum with 1:24 to play in the opening frame. Hartman’s goal would stand as the game-winner.

“We knew this was a must win for us and we came out in the first period and were a desperate hockey team,” said goaltender Michael Leighton, who made 23 saves in Rockford’s 4-1 win in Game 3. Continue reading »

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May 082015
 

By Chris Block

Before the IceHogs left for Games 1 and 2 in Grand Rapids earlier this week, Rockford head coach Ted Dent spoke of his team’s focus needing to be on containing Teemu Pulkkinen and keeping their composure in a building they haven’t had much success at in recent years.

After outplaying Grand Rapids in much of Game 1, but losing the decision 5-3 because of their own costly mental and physical errors, Rockford had to feel some sense of reassurance knowing they really only beat themselves in the series opener.

Well, on Friday, Rockford was resoundingly blown out of Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids allowed the first goal of the game when Spencer Abbott setup Brandon Mashinter for a one timer than was blown through Tom McCollum’s five hole at 6:18 of the first period.

But the Griffins responded by scoring five unanswered goals in route to a 5-1 final. Continue reading »

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May 072015
 

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. Continue reading »

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May 042015
 

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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Apr 242015
 

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. Continue reading »

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Apr 152015
 

IceHogs_LockerRoom_2014_100214

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. Continue reading »

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Mar 282015
 

Raanta_IceHogs_2015Mar06_OKCAntti Raanta, March 6, 2015 in Rockford vs Oklahoma City
Photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

By Chris Block

“When they said I was going down (to Rockford) – you just have so many questions inside your head. You try to figure it out, like ‘what did I do wrong?’” – Antti Raanta

Antti Raanta couldn’t have done much better for the Blackhawks this season.

In 12 starts and 14 appearances overall, the Blackhawks’ backup goalie went 7-4-1 with a 1.89 goals against average and .936 save percentage. He posted two shutouts, which is the same number of shutouts as Corey Crawford has tallied through 52 starts in 2014-15.

But after parts of two seasons under Joel Quenneville’s watch, the six-foot one inch Raanta fell down the depth chart in some key decision makers minds with the emergence this year of the 6’6” Scott Darling.

Quenneville was one of those minds.

Raanta last appeared for the Hawks in relief duty of a 6-2 drubbing by Boston at the United Center on February 22. Raanta entered more than halfway into the second period when the Hawks were already down 4-1. Continue reading »

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Mar 202015
 

vanRiemsdyk_courtesy_IceHogs_2015Mar18_ADR_2_458x500Trevor van Riemsdyk, Wednesday March 18th in Rockford
photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

By Chris Block

Back-to-back serious injuries have posed a challenge to the bright, young career of Trevor van Riemsdyk.

The 23-year old New Jersey native, affectionately known by Blackhawks fans now as ‘TVR’, had his rookie season derailed after 18 games on November 16 when he blocked a Trevor Daley shot off the side of his left knee in the first period against the Dallas Stars, which was also the night of Brad Richards’ 1,000th game.

“I couldn’t tell at first. I just knew that it hurt,” said van Riemsdyk when asked if he knew the severity of the injury right away. “But I didn’t know how serious it could be. So then I got the x-ray done and that was that.”

Further examinations determined van Riemsdyk had suffered a fractured left patella bone and he underwent surgery four days later. Doctors projected he would need 3-4 months of recovery time. A hundred and seventeen days went by before van Riemsdyk would play in his next game. Continue reading »

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