Nov 192017
 

By Chris Block

Rockford IceHogs capped a weekend home set on Sunday night with a second-consecutive shootout victory, this time over the Chicago Wolves.

The season’s first meeting between Interstate 90 rivals delivered the back-and-forth action and volatility their games typically inspire.

Chicago’s season has been off to an inauspicious beginning (4-9-1-0) despite a roster full of talent that would suggest better results. The Wolves are now the affiliate of the NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights, while also carrying a handful of the St. Louis Blues top prospects.  Next season, the Blues will be with AHL San Antonio exclusively. But for now, frequent roster juggling, particularly on the Vegas’ end, has made it difficult for the Wolves’ squad to build much chemistry.

On Sunday, Rockford saw a late 2-goal lead slip away as the Wolves fought back to a tie on tally’s by defenseman Jake Walman and captain Paul Thompson – the latter a short-handed goal off a Laurent Dauphin giveaway.

Vince Hinostroza was once again the hero for the home team.  Hinostroza dangled his way to a highlight reel goal midway through the first and had one of two of the IceHogs goals in the shootout.

Jeff Glass, on his 32nd birthday, was between the pipes for Rockford and stopped 34 shots and another 2 Wolves’ shooters in the skills competition en route to his 5th consecutive win.  Glass got both starts on the weekend with J-F Berube having lost his last 5 starts after beginning the season 5-0. Continue reading »

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Nov 082017
 


By Chris Block

A healthy influx of fresh prospects and NHL experienced forwards have helped drive the Rockford IceHogs to their best start since the 2014-15 campaign.

Rockford rolled off 6 wins in its initial 7 contests, with the only loss coming to rival Milwaukee.

Since, the IceHogs have faltered a bit, losing 3 of their last four and mustering just 9 goals in those four outings. Three of Rockford’s defeats overall have come against Milwaukee, with the other a 3-2 Halloween loss at Cleveland, a night the IceHogs power play let them down (0 for 7).

In all, it’s just the 4th time in 11 seasons that Rockford has posted 7 wins in its initial 10 games.  Only once in those three other seasons did the IceHogs go on to fail to qualify for the postseason. That year, 2013, Rockford followed up a 7-2-1-0 start by losing 8 of its next 10.  They eventually missed the playoffs by 4 points. The 2008-09 and 2014-15 teams did go on to the playoffs.

This year’s group has been steered by a combination of speed, solid blue line and goaltending play.

Rockford’s high-pace attack has caused opponents all some fits in the early going, but it’s come with some growing pains as some opponents have been able to take advantage of Rockford’s over-aggressive forecheck at times in transition.

IceHogs first-year coach Jeremy Colliton admits it’s still a work in progress. Continue reading »

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Mar 282016
 

Labrie_2015May13_IceHogs_ToddReicher_photo_500x407Pierre-Cedric Labrie, IceHogs, photo: Todd Reicher

By Chris Block

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was suspended 1-game by the AHL on Monday, stemming from his actions during a fight in the third period of Friday night’s 5-1 loss at Lake Erie, also Rockford’s 8th consecutive road defeat.

Labrie was assessed a match penalty and game misconduct for his actions during a fight he instigated with Lake Erie forward Josh Anderson.

In the American Hockey League, a match penalty carries an automatic $200.00 fine.

Per Rule 21.1

A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner.

In addition to the match penalty, the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the President has ruled on the issue.

During the fight, which Labrie instigated, Anderson speared Labrie down to the ice. While wrestling on the ice, with both linesman trying to separating them, Labrie grabbed the helmet off Anderson’s head, proceeding to attempt to strike Anderson in the head repeatedly with his own helmet. Continue reading »

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Mar 202016
 

Hinostroza_IceHogs_2016Mar15_GregHamil_Photo_500x333Vince Hinostroza in action, March 15, 2016 vs Charlotte
Photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs, by Greg Hamil

“The last month, he’s probably been our best player.”

-Ted Dent, speaking about 1st year pro Vince Hinostroza, after a tough 4-1 loss Friday night to the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont.

It is a compliment Dent has reserved for a select few players this season – Mark McNeill and Tanner Kero have also been bestowed that praise.

This is a season in which the Rockford IceHogs spent most of the initial two-thirds of the season atop the AHL Central Division. Lately, the Blackhawks top minor league affiliate has slumped and fallen back to third place, four points behind now division leading Grand Rapids, who have won 13 consecutive games coming into Sunday’s action.

While the IceHogs as a group may have recently lost some steam, Hinostroza is playing his best hockey yet. 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 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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