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Kearns in the Spotlight

12/31/2009 4:47 PM - Chris Etheridge
If you haven't seen it yet, there's a feature of Bracken Kearns on NHL.com.  It's a much deserved nod to a hard-working player.  In addition to Mark Cullen and Jack Skille getting on the the PlanetUSA Team for the Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic, J.C. Sawyer and Maxime Tanguay have been named to the American Conference team for the ECHL All-Star game in Ontario.  Kudos to them.

Tomorrow we will find out if former IceHogs skater Dustin Byfuglien will represent the United States in the Vancouver Olympics in February.

I didn't get up to the morning skate this morning, so I'm not sure who are scratches for tonight or which goalie is going to go.  I guess we'll all get to find out tonight at 7:05 p.m. Here are the rest of the notes for tonight:

Out With 2009: Tonight is Rockford’s final game of 2009, and entering play tonight the IceHogs have compiled a record of 41-36-2-1 during the ‘09 calendar year. Compared to 2008, when Rockford had a record of 39-33-1-4.

On Nights When The Ball Drops: Rockford will play its ninth all-time New Year’s Eve game tonight against Houston and the team hasn’t had the best of luck on Dec. 31. Rockford is just 2-6-0-0 in their previous eight New Year’s Eve contests, but has won two of its last three. Last season Rockford dropped a 5-3 contest at the MetroCentre against Milwaukee on the final eve of 2008.

A Common Opponent: Entering play tonight, Rockford and Houston have met just once through the IceHogs first 37 games. Including tonight’s tilt, the IceHogs and Aeros will match-up five times in the next 16 days, which amounts to five of Rockford’s next eight contests.

Let’s Not Do That Again: Rockford’s 7-1 thumping against Milwaukee on Tuesday matched the IceHogs worst loss since joining the American Hockey League in 2007. The loss equaled Rockford’s 7-1 defeat at Chicago on April 12, 2008. It wasn’t, however, the worst loss in club history. That distinction belongs to the 1999-2000 UHL IceHogs club that fell 10-0 in Flint to the Generals on March 22, 2000.

All-Star Performers: On Wednesday, the American Hockey League announced that Rockford forwards Mark Cullen and Jack Skille were named to the PlanetUSA team for the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic. It’s the second time in three seasons in which the Hogs have had two players named to the game. Cam Barker and Martin St. Pierre were named to the game in ‘08 and Petri Kontiola last season.



So Long and Good Luck

12/29/2009 1:14 PM - Chris Etheridge
We had the pleasure of having a true professional in our locker room for about a month in the form of goaltender Dan Cloutier.  In case you haven't heard, the veteran netminder came to a mutual agreement with the team today to be released from his professional try-out agreement after three starts with the IceHogs.

He was here trying to see how his hip would hold up to the rigors of pro hockey after two surgeries and an 18-month recovery.  At this time, he has decided to take a step back from that day-to-day pro hockey experience.

Two of his starts with Rockford were on the road, so I can't say much about his on-ice play (though I think his solid NHL career speaks for itself).  But off the ice, I can tell you he was friendly, excellent to work with and always willing to be a part of the team.

There are a lot of little things that aren't related to the on-ice side of the game -- autographs, community appearances, media interviews, etc. -- that are required of players.  For a guy who is battling to get back into the National Hockey League (or any other major professional sports league), there are really two ways to handle your time in the minors.  You can either treat people like you don't belong down here and can't wait to get out of the minors or you can make sure you're a part of the team, available to the local media and willing to pull your own weight in the community.  There's no question that Cloutier is in the second category.

Mark Bernard's quote in the above release really sums up the kind of player he is:

“Dan has worked very hard to get himself back into shape over the last month,” said Bernard. “He has been a role model for our younger players in the locker room but at this time he has made the decision to step away from hockey for the time being.”
 
It has to be difficult for a guy like Cloutier, who at 33, is doing everything he can to get back into the sport he loves.  We're rooting for you here in Rockford!

The bus leaves for Milwaukee in less than an hour.  Scratches for tonight's game are going to be Simon Danis-Pepin, David Phillips, Nathan Davis, Akim Aliu, Corey Crawford and Ryan Flinn.

It sounds like goalie Alec Richards is going to get the start at the Bradley Center.  Hopefully he can build on his three-game AHL winning streak.

Here are so more notes for tonight:

On the Plus Side: Center Bracken Kearns has recorded a plus/minus rating of even or positive in 30 of the 36 games in which he has played in. He is currently leading the team with a +11 rating on the season having played in six straight positive or even games.

High Scoring Affair: The Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves combined for 10 goals on Sunday in the Hogs 6-4 victory. That marks the highest total in a single game involving Rockford this season. The IceHogs also picked up thier first win when allowing four or more goals in a game (1-8-1-0).

Have to Turn It Around: The IceHogs have not faired too well against Milwaukee with a record of 4-11-0-0 over the past 15 games including four post season matchups. In their first 13 meetings all time, the Hogs held the upper hand, posting 8-4-0-1 record.

The Big Helping Hand: Winger Pete MacArthur recorded his first professional three-point game on Sunday with three assists.  The second-year skater had four points over the two-game weekend and was +4.  His 13 helpers in 2009-10 surpasses his rookie total of 11.  He has 16 points (3g-13a) in 26 games this season.