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#MOMOMENTS

02/04/2015 3:10 PM - Brent Hollerud

Leading up to this Saturday’s Jeremy Morin Bobblehead Giveaway, the IceHogs are celebrating their all-time leading goal scorer. Make sure to share your favorite #MoMoments on the IceHogs Facebook (/rockfordicehogs) and Twitter (@goicehogs) accounts all week long!

Long-term fans of AHL teams quickly become experts of letting go.

Most of the time they don’t even have a choice. The AHL - like most minor league sports institutions - is at its core a development league, where transactions and roster turnover are as commonplace as the colorful and wacky promotions created by its member teams.

But along with the distinction of being the proverbial front door to the NHL, comes a bittersweet truth to the supporters of AHL teams: if a player is performing well, chances are he won’t be in town for much longer.  Talent giveth, and talent taketh away, so to speak.

That being said, winger Jeremy Morin had plenty of time to endear himself to the Rockford faithful, playing in 208 games over the course of five seasons in the Forest City. Only six players have appeared in more games in an IceHogs jersey than him, and only his long-time running mate Brandon Pirri (200 points) has scored more points than Morin’s 158.  No one, however, has more than Morin’s 81 goals in an IceHogs uniform.

“Jeremy was one of the best natural goal scorers in Rockford’s AHL-era,” said Mike Peck, the IceHog Director of Business Operations and broadcaster. “It was definitely fun getting to watch him mature from a prospect to a dominant AHL player.”

A 2009 second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, Morin came to the Blackhawks organization in the trade that shook up the Chicago roster in the wake of their 2010 Stanley Cup Championship. The Blackhawks acquired the Auburn, N.Y. native, along with Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb and first and second-round picks in the 2010 draft, in exchange for Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu.

The young forward, only 19 when making his professional debut in Rockford on Oct. 9, 2010, didn’t waste much time becoming an impact player in the Chicago system. Morin earned his first NHL recall within a month of playing his first AHL game, making his Blackhawks debut on Nov. 6, 2010 and scoring his first NHL goal in his sixth game on Dec. 8, 2010.

While Morin played bits and pieces of his first four professional seasons with the big club in Chicago, he thrived during his time in Rockford.  After only suiting up in 22 games his rookie season with the IceHogs, Morin exploded for 40, 58 and 47 points respectively over the next three campaigns. His 58 points in 2012-13 set an AHL franchise record for points in a single season by a left winger, and his 24 goals in 2013-14 paced a Rockford club which he only appeared in 47 games for. Morin was also named the IceHogs’ MVP that season.

But for the product of the United States National Team Development Program and the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, Morin’s offensive upside is just one facet of his game. A player who is equal parts skilled and scrappy, Morin seemed to enjoy joining a post-whistle scrum or throwing a big hit just as much as he enjoyed scoring goals. Racking up 301 penalty minutes in his time with the IceHogs, Morin relished the role of agitator as well as sniper.

“Not only could he score, he was able to provide some of the grit that your team needs,” Peck explained. “That combination of skill and sandpaper was a good mix for fans in this area, and that is why Morin was a fan favorite.”

Morin’s time in the Chicago organization came to an end on Dec. 14 when the Blackhawks dealt him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Tim Erixon. That is not to say that his impact on IceHogs fans has gone anywhere.  Morin left his name etched in the franchise history books and in the memories of those who enjoyed his bone crushing hits, his scoring talent and his electrifying enthusiasm. And now, after Saturday night, fans can make room for him (at least a likeness of him) on their mantles and office desks alike. That is not something the revolving door of the AHL will make them part ways with.
 

HOME SWEET HOME

11/11/2014 3:24 PM - Brent Hollerud

After a road-heavy start, the surging Hogs are ready to spend some quality time at the BMO

The last two and a half weeks have been a fantastic time to be a fan of the Rockford IceHogs. Not only have they been able to string along eight wins in a row, breaking their AHL franchise record in the process, they have been able to deliver victories in just about every way possible.

They have had to pull of dramatic comebacks and prevent dramatic comebacks, they have won in overtime and in dominant fashion, they have had their goaltender steal a game or two just as they have won playing fire-wagon hockey.  What is more remarkable than the Hogs finding so many different ways to come out on top this early in the season is the fact they have done so while spending most of their time away from home.

Already in possession of first place in the Midwest Division, the IceHogs will finally get unpack the suitcases and enjoy a November schedule that is laden with home games.  What is even more exciting for the Hogs and their fans is despite their impressive record there is still plenty to improve upon moving forward for the young Rockford club.

BMO-Bound

Relief has finally arrived for what could only be considered a grueling travel schedule to open the season for the IceHogs.  After starting the campaign with eight of 13 games on the road, including lengthy trips out east and to Texas, Rockford will now play eight of their next 12 at the BMO. Even more, the four road contests during that stretch are in nearby Chicago and Milwaukee. The Hogs don’t have to leave the upper-Midwest until late December, when they visit Oklahoma City on Dec. 20-21.

Typically for a hockey team to find long-term success they hope to do the bulk of their winning at home while fielding at least a .500 record on the road. So far this year the IceHogs have done much better than that, winning six of their first eight games away from Rockford, a mark that ties them with Utica for the best road record in the AHL.  For another comparision, the IceHogs only won 11 road games last season, and they are already on pace to eclipse that mark by mid-December.

Not Yet Satisfied


Perhaps the most promising aspect about where the IceHogs are at as a team through five weeks is not how good they have been during their current streak, but how many areas the team can still improve on.  While the players and coaches have been happy with the results of their games, it is clear, when listening to them talk to the media, that they believe that they have not begun to play their best hockey yet-something that could be troubling for the rest of the league.

One area in which the IceHogs have struggled so far has been coming strong out of the gates. All too often it seems like opponents have been able to get the jump on Rockford in the early stages of a period. Through 13 games, the IceHogs have surrendered eight goals in the first five minutes of a period, five of which came in the opening frame.

Luckily for Rockford, they have been able to respond to early adversity, as oddly enough they have an impressive 6-0-0-0 record when giving up the game’s first goal. But the IceHogs know that the law of averages holds that spotting teams early leads will eventually come back to bite them, so they will need to work on tightening up their play in the opening minutes of a period.

Another aspect that could be improved is their net presence in the defensive end.  Both Michael Leighton and Scott Darling have fared extremely well on first-shot opportunities, but the opposition has been able to find scoring on a consistent basis on the rebounds.

Part of the onus of solving this problem can lie on the goalies for better controlling the puck off of their body, limiting the second-chance opportunities. But rebounds are inevitable, and when they do occur the defense and net-front center need to step in and contain the attacking team while clearing loose pucks. 

Iowa was able to climb out of a 4-0 hole and were inches from tying the game last Thursday by out-muscling the IceHogs in tight and scoring some greasy goals. If Rockford can find a way to let their goalies make the first save and lock things down from there, they will be that much tougher to score on.