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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.

The Key To Rockford’s Recent Success

01/27/2012 3:05 PM - Mike Peck
It looked like it was back to reality for the IceHogs last night in Charlotte. The team looked lifeless through 30 minutes of hockey.

Slow footed, poor puck position, lack of tenacity, bad penalty kill, ineffective power play…it was all there.

And then a little bit of life late in the second period and Peter LeBlanc notches a goal with 1:01 left in the frame, and all of sudden the IceHogs have a spark and battle back from a 3-0 deficit. Rostislav Olesz nearly gave Rockford the extra point in overtime but couldn’t sneak a breakaway past John Muse.

The IceHogs did grab a point and are now 4-0-0-1 over their past five games and 7-3-0-1 in January. The Hogs are 1-2-0-2 against Charlotte with four one-goal games in there.

So what has been the key for the IceHogs? A new pregame meal? Different practice structure? Good luck underwear?


No, none of the above. Check out the pic below….

SoccerVBPic.jpg

It appears to be a bunch of schmos standing around a cattle gate. Well you’re right. But it’s also the IceHogs new warm-up fad. It’s soccer-volleyball!

It all started at the Cedar Park Center in Texas when the IceHogs were playing the Stars in a two-game weekend set. After getting beat the night before 4-2 to the Stars, the IceHogs came to the rink on Sunday to find a cattle gate (or bike rack if you will) set up in an open area by the dressing rooms.

The team immediately changed their pregame warm routine from sewer ball (basically hacky sack with a soccer ball) to soccer volleyball.  The problem was, the “court” was set up by the Stars and after five minutes the IceHogs were booted off of the court and had to go back to sewer ball.

Low and behold, Rockford won that night’s game 6-5 in overtime in comeback fashion.  After a loss in Chicago the following Wednesday with the old sewer ball routine, Rockford changed back to soccer volleyball in Oklahoma City on Friday and picked up another win.

You guessed it, on Saturday in San Antonio it was a loss following a sewer ball warm up. Since that game on Jan. 14, Rockford is 4-0-0-1 and has played soccer volleyball before each game.

The picture above is taken in the bowels of Time Warner Cable Arena on a court taped off by the IceHogs so they can continue their new routine.

Good thing the team isn’t superstitious!

Well after the boys play their soccer volleyball this evening, they’ll get another crack at the Checkers. Alec Richards will be in goal tonight for the first time since Jan. 11 and it’s pretty much a sure thing that Carter Hutton will go on Saturday at the BMO against Milwaukee.

A bit of a lineup change for the IceHogs as Ben Youds and Philippe Paradis are back in and Shawn Lalonde and Rob Flick will be the healthy scratches.

The AHL attendance has been unbelievable lately and tonight won’t be any different. They are expecting upwards of 12-13,000 at Time Warner Cable Arena for tonight’s game in Charlotte and the Admirals will probably have that minimum for their game with a concert afterwards at the Bradley Center.

Tomorrow night we will be selling out the BMO so if you don’t have tickets…get them NOW!!!