Thank You January, Can You Come For February?
01/31/2012 4:08 PM - Mike Peck
Wow! That’s all I can say about January for the Rockford IceHogs.
After losing to Peoria on New Year’s Eve, the IceHogs record was 11-18-1-3 and the team was slumping through a 1-5-0-3 stretch.
Ted Dent was last seen busting sticks over the dasher boards at Carver Arena in 2011 and that might have been the turning point in the IceHogs season.
Since the Dent stick busting spectacle, the IceHogs have ripped off a 9-3-0-1 stretch and have become one of the stingiest teams in the AHL.
Now, you have to tip your hat to Teddy for turning this thing around, but not necessarily for the stick incident in Peoria. Dent and the coaching staff have made some key adjustments to the IceHogs systems, beginning around the time we turned the calendar to 2012, and the team has responded remarkably.
The more defensive minded IceHogs have gone from finding ways to squander away one-goal games (4-5-1-3 before Jan. 1) to dominating the close ones (6-1-0-1 in January).
Rockford gave up 29 goals in 13 January games after allowing 30 in their final seven contests in 2011. As for the prior 13 tilts before the New Year, Rockford let in 52 goals, or nearly double the amount from their 13 January games.
A lot of the credit also has to go to Carter Hutton as well as he was absolutely stellar in goal in January and should be one of the candidates for Goalie of the Month with Bridgeport’s Kevin Poulin and San Antonio’s Dov Grummet Morris.
Kind of ironic that Hutton’s hot stretch started with one of his worst performances of the season. On Jan. 8, Hutton picked up the overtime win in Texas over the Stars, but allowed five goals on 25 shots.
His January numbers look like this: 9 gp, 7-1-1 .934 SPCT 1.86 GAA
If you take out that Jan. 8 game: 8 gp, 6-1-1 .952 SPCT 1.36 GAA
Rockford has climbed from 15th in the Western Conference with 26 points and nine points out of the last playoff spot on Jan. 1 to 11th in the conference with 45 points and just two points out of eighth.
Keeping the puck out of the net has obviously been the key for Rockford. Here’s how bad it was. Rockford had a GAA of 2.20 in January and as of the All-Star Break, the IceHogs still were last in the AHL with a 3.35 GAA. Remarkably, the IceHogs have dropped it from 3.79 to 3.35 since Jan. 1.
So moving on into February, the IceHogs still sit one-game under .500 and are tied with Charlotte for the most games played in the Western Conference. The pack has really come back to the IceHogs over the past month, so right now the team needs to maintain to keep in the hunt.
From a roster standpoint, the team is going to have to add a defenseman at some point as right now the club is carrying just six d-men that includes two rookies (Lavin and Youds), three second-year players (Olsen, Stanton, Lalonde) and one veteran (Fahey). Fahey has more games played than all of the other active IceHogs d-men combined.
Up front, the team is only going to get deeper as Chicago gets healthier. Jimmy Hayes was sent back with Jonathan Toews coming off the IR and Brendan Morrison added via trade because they were over the max roster limit. Patrick Sharp is close to returning and that will force the Blackhawks to make another transaction.
I doubt Andrew Shaw will be the guy to get sent back right now, but the Hawks will have to make a move (whether trade, loan to Rockford, etc.)
February features 11 games for Rockford including seven at home. It seems that the team has found its winning touch again at the BMO so the home cooking might be what carries Rockford through another month. The team will need another one similar to January if they want to be serious playoff contenders come March.
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