Photo by Greg Hamil
Rockford to make fifth-straight playoff appearance and second in the AHL
Rockford, Ill.- The Rockford IceHogs sealed a playoff spot in front of a sold out Rockford MetroCentre with a 3-2 shootout win over the Peoria Rivermen.
"It's been playoffs for us for a couple of weeks now, and the last couple of games haven't gone our way," said Rockford's Defenseman of the Year Tim Hambly. "But tonight you have to give all of the credit to Crawford with 32 stops."
After a wild season in a crowded West Division, the playoff teams are finally set. With Houston's shootout loss and Rockford's win on Friday, the final two West Division spots in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs go to the Aeros and IceHogs.
Now with Houston's two games left and Rockford's final game against Chicago tomorrow night the one thing left to determine is the seeding. The Hogs lead the Aeros by one point in the standings. The higher seed will face Peoria in the first round, while the lower seed with see Milwaukee.
In Friday's game, Crawford turned in a stellar performance to carry the IceHogs on 32 saves.
"Coming into playoffs you're going to need a hot goalie and we're going to run into one on the other side," Hambly said. "One goal against in a playoff game like this is something you can't really complain about."
Rockford's 2008-09 Rookie of the Year Pete MacArthur put the IceHogs up 1-0 in front of 5,938 fans when he flipped a puck over Chris Holt at 13:06 in the second period on the power play. It was MacArthur's 14th on the year and eighth in his last 14 games. The assists went to team MVP Tim Brent and Hambly.
Holt had 26 stops in the game.
Peoria's Aaron Palushaj tied the score with a power-play marker at 19:10 in the second. Palushaj poked the puck past Corey Crawford in a scrum in front of the net with helpers from Justin Fletcher and Yan Stastny.
Both the Hogs and Rivermen had chances to take the lead in the third period. With just about a minute left in the contest, Peoria's Steve Wagner rang the post on a slap shot, but Rockford recovered the rebound and cleared the zone.
With a berth in the playoffs assured by forcing extra hockey, Rockford could only add icing to the cake with a win in front of the seventh sellout of the 2008-09 season.
Rockford's Akim Aliu and Evan Brophey scored in the shootout while Peoria's only tally came from Danny Richmond.
For the second straight game, Rockford and their opponent finished 1-for-8 on the power play.
Playoff Tickets Are On Sale: The Rockford IceHogs are in the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs. Pick up tickets for the first two games by calling (815) 968-5222 or stop by the Rockford MetroCentre Box Office or Hogs Headquarters at Cherryvale Mall. Schedule, times, dates and opponent to be determined.