Desperate Hogs Strike Back, 4-1 win in Game 3 puts Rockford back in series

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. Read more »

IceHogs leave Grand Rapids trailing 2-0

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. Read more »

Blackhawks Sweep The Wild, Suffer Key Loss As Rozsival Likely Done For Season

By Chris Block

When the second-round series became official, about the last probable outcome most people would have come up with was a Blackhawks sweep of the hottest team in the NHL since January.

Yet, Chicago did just that. And now the Hawks are one step closer (8 wins, in fact) from their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 seasons.

Thursday night in St. Paul, the Blackhawks completed the 4-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild by a 4-3 score in captivating fashion before what was a left of the sold out Xcel Energy Center crowd by the time the final horn sounded.

In doing so, the Blackhawks become the first team from either conference to advance into the Conference Finals. They now await the winner of the Anaheim-Calgary series, which resumes on Friday night in Calgary with the Ducks up 2-1 in that duel.

It could be up to 7 to 10 days before the Blackhawks play again, depending on how long the other series go as neither Conference Final series can begin until the series currently going have concluded.

Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored for the visitors in the series-clinching victory. Read more »

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 »

Crawford Blanks Wild, Blackhawks Lead Series 3-0

By Jon Fromi

The Chicago Blackhawks got a huge performance in net by Corey Crawford Tuesday night, allowing them to take a commanding lead in their Western Conference Semifinal with Minnesota. Crawford’s fourth career playoff shutout allowed a Patrick Kane power play tally to be the difference in a 1-0 Game 3 Chicago win. With the win, the Blackhawks go up 3-0 on the Wild in the best-of-seven series.

First Period-Corey Crawford was kept busy early as the Wild tried to capitalize on the vocal home crowd. Ninety seconds in, the Chicago goalie knocked away a laser from Ryan Suter and Niklas Hjalmarsson got in the way of Tomas Vanek’s rebound attempt. Crawford stopped four Minnesota shots in the first four minute as the ice was tilted toward his crease. Read more »

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.

Hawks stars tame Wild to take a 2-0 series lead

By Brad Vandenberk

The Wild came into game 2 of this Central division final not having lost a back to back game since the All-star game in January. The Hawks were confident, even though they squandered a 3-0 lead in game 1, but still found a way to close it out. Jonathan Toews opens the scoring shorthanded, then it was Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp who did the rest. Kane scored 2 goals, one being an empty netter and Sharp restoring the 2 goal lead early in the third period.

Corey Crawford faced off against Devan Dubnyk who has been hot of late. Crawford literally stood on his head to keep the Wild off the score sheet until Matt Dumba found a way but it wasn’t enough. Kris Versteeg remained out of the line up with a lower body injury creating a spot for Teuvo Teravainen who played great and has a bright future. Read more »

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.

Lindbloom’s View: Sparks

Lindbloom_Top_043015Reflections On A Hand Shake Game

“We welcome passion, for the mind is briefly let off duty.” – Mignon McLughlin

By Rich Lindbloom

In 1979 Graham Parker recorded his album, Squeezing out Sparks. The album contained one of “them” songs, you know, the songs that you are compelled to turn up the volume 3 to 4 notches. If you’re really bold, and no one else is in the car with you, you might even try to sing along. One of the lines in the song Passion Is No Ordinary Word reminds me those moments in life, whether victorious or in defeat, where passion rules the day;

“Passion is no ordinary word ain’t manufactured or just another sound that you hear at night.”

Certainly, what we are passionate about in life takes on many forms. Read more »

Hawks finish Preds in a dramatic Game 6

By Michael Calvert

The Blackhawks closed out Nashville in another dramatic, come-from-behind whirlwind night at United Center on Saturday.

Duncan Keith scored with 3:48 to play in regulation to complete the Hawks’ Game 6 comeback. Keith’s tally was his second of the series and gave the home team a 4-3 lead that would stand as the final score.

A wild opening 11 minutes of the game saw the Predators gain 2-0 and 3-1 leads on the backs of two James Neal goals, and another from Matt Cullen that got Scott Darling pulled from the net in favor of Corey Crawford.

Darling was the Game 6 starter as he’s managed to keep the net since Game 3 and the Hawks went in with what has become a pretty consistent line arrangement.

The Blackhawks tightened up in front of Crawford as he needed to make just 13 saves in 49 minutes the rest of the way. That opposed to Darling, who saw 12 shots in 11:16 of play. Read more »