Tag Archives: Michael Leighton

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 »

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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 »

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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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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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Interview with Antti Raanta on his demotion, the trade deadline, his future and playing for a Cup in Rockford

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. Read more »

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IceHogs’ shooters get one, enough; Leighton shuts out Iowa 1-0, sets IceHogs record

Leighton_2015Jan13_Charlotte_320x309_IceHogsMichael Leighton – Photo credit: Rockford IceHogs Hockey


By Chris Block

Rockford IceHogs accomplished something Thursday night they had not before this season – score 1 goal and win.

Matt Carey blasted a power play goal by Iowa Wild goalie John Curry with 6:44 remaining in the third period to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead, a score that stood as the final.

The IceHogs have scored 1 goal or less in 12 of their 43 games. That’s 27.9 percent of the season to date.

Previously Rockford had found ways to earn points without scoring a goal. They’ve lost 1-0 in overtime, another time in a shootout. But until Thursday they had not figured out how to win a game by a 1-0 score.

Michael Leighton stopped 23 shots in picking up his 11th win and 4th shutout this season and 40th of his career. Read more »

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Rockford’s Slump Continues, Drop 3-2 shootout loss to Charlotte; Stan Bowman Talks Prospects, Teravainen; More notes

2015Jan13_MarkMcNeill_Charlotte_IceHogs_PicMark McNeill doesn’t beat Drew MacIntyre in the shootout Tuesday Jan 13th in Rockford
Photo: Rockford IceHogs Hockey


By Chris Block

On Tuesday night, the Rockford IceHogs began the second half of their season looking to punt their recent goal scoring troubles and get back on a winning track in the first meeting of the season with the visiting Charlotte Checkers.

A weeknight crowd of 2,515 saw their ‘Hogs go down 2-0 midway through the contest only to hustle back to tie, then miss out on the extra point in the shootout competition and lose the game by a 3-2 final score. It was Rockford’s third straight loss.

Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman were the IceHogs’ goal scorers. It marked the 6th goal of the season for each player. Charlotte’s Drew MacIntyre stopped 41 of 43 Rockford shots while Michael Leighton stood tall at the other end, making 43 saves.

But the struggling IceHogs’ scorers couldn’t get over the two goal hump for the 9th time over the past 11 games. Rockford’s averaging 1.7 goals per game over that stretch while allowing 2.4. Read more »

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A look at Rockford atop AHL at quarter mark; Ted Dent comments on PIMs, fighting: more on Blackhawks Analytics position

2014Nov22_Schnell_Liambas_Fight_Pic_IceHogsRyan Schnell (38) fights Milwaukee’s Michael Liambas Nov 22 in Rockford
photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

By Chris Block

Rockford IceHogs have rolled off four consecutive wins, all without their captain Joakim Nordstrom, veteran goaltender Michael Leighton and leading scorer Mark McNeill. The latter three wins also came without Adam Clendening and Phillip Danault.

In the process, the depleted IceHogs grabbed three wins from divisional foes this past weekend to solidify Rockford with the best record (14-4-0-1, .763) in the AHL. It started with 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win over Iowa on Friday.

The only games Rockford has lost this season have been to Milwaukee (3 times) and Rochester. Their shootout competition loss came in Toronto on October 19th, after 67 minutes of scoreless hockey.

The IceHogs snapped an 8-game losing streak, stretching back to last season, when they finally defeated the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night in Rockford by a 3-2 score in what may have been the best 60 minutes of hockey Rockford’s been a part of all season. Read more »

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Hartman snaps drought: Injury updates on Mark McNeill, Leighton; More info on McNeill

Hartman_Brennan_OTW_2014Nov21_RockfordIceHogs
Ryan Hartman (24) and T.J. Brennan (7) hug out their OT winning-goal  connection on Fri Nov 21st in Rockford
Photo credit: Rockford IceHogs

By Chris Block

Blackhawks 2013 first round draft pick Ryan Hartman got off to a good start offensively this season, then fell off the scoresheets for a few weeks.

On Friday, Hartman snapped a 9-game pointless streak. He tallied twice for the IceHogs, including the game-tying in the third period, then the overtime game-winner in a 4-3 win over the Iowa Wild in Rockford. The goals were Hartman’s 3rd and 4th of the season.

The local product was originally credited with two goals in a 3-2 Opening night loss to Milwaukee on October 11st, but one of those would later rightly be given to defenseman Zach Miskovic.

Following his two-goal performance on Friday, Hartman said he was never concerned about his drop off in offensive production.

“It’s part of hockey. I’ve done that plenty of times before,” said Hartman. “There’s times when the puck’s not going your way. Read more »

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Hartman snaps 2, drought, in IceHogs 4-3 OT win over Iowa

By Chris Block

Playing without four of the team’s top regulars, including their leading scorer (Mark McNeill) and team captain (Joakim Nordstrom), the Rockford IceHogs returned to action Friday night with the AHL West’s last-placed Iowa Wild visiting northern Illinois.

The IceHogs saw their roster stripped of last year’s leading scorer in defenseman Adam Clendening, who made his NHL debut for the Blackhawks in Calgary on Thursday night, notching his first NHL goal in the contest.  Then, after that game, the IceHogs’ parent club recalled center Phillip Danault, who will now also be making his NHL debut in Edmonton on Saturday.

Danault and Clendening joined IceHogs’ captain Joakim Nordstrom, who was recalled by the ‘Hawks last Saturday, the same day McNeill limped off the ice at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee after blocking a shot off his knee.

Yet without four of their best players, the IceHogs found a way to pickup two points against Iowa on Friday.  Ryan Hartman scored twice, and left winger Ryan Schnell posted a ‘Gordie Howe’ hat-trick in Rockford’s 4-3 come-from-behind OT victory over the Wild. Read more »

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