ROCKFORD, Ill. – In the words of Head Coach Derek King, the playoffs have “already begun” for the Rockford IceHogs as the club looked to turn the page on a frustrating January and reset moving into February. Sitting in seventh place of a tightly-packed Central Division, the IceHogs erased the memory of a three-win January and organized a 9-6-1-0 February to move back into postseason contention.
At the start of the month, the IceHogs knew they would not only have to play well, but take away key points against division foes as only one of the 13 games featured a non-division opponent (Cleveland on Feb. 15). On Feb. 1, the IceHogs saw themselves as one of six teams separated by only five points ranking from third place to last.
The Hogs took their first step on Feb. 4, snapping a six-game winless skid with a dominating 5-2 win over the Texas Stars that featured a four-goal outburst in the first period, their most successful opening frame of the season. The victory carried into a 3-2 overtime win over San Antonio on Feb. 7 and began a stretch that featured six wins over eight games including a two-game sweep at Manitoba and earning their first win of the season against the pesky Cleveland Monsters.
Goaltender Collin Delia capped the run with an outstanding 1-0 shutout performance over San Antonio on Feb. 21, denying all 28 Rampage shots and forward Alexander Fortin provided one of the most thrilling goals, shorthanded nonetheless, as the game-winning marker.
In the final four games of the month, the Hogs racked up a 2-2-0 record, dropping matchups at Milwaukee and Chicago, but rallying at Texas on Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 and a 3-2 shootout win and 5-4 thumping in Cedar Park. After an overall successful month, the IceHogs found themselves back in a playoff spot and tied for third in the Central.
Delia Shines Bright in February:
With 11 appearances of the 13 games, goaltender Collin Delia proved to be Derek King’s top choice in the crease, earning a 7-3-0 record in the month with a 2.67 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Delia earned his second shutout of the season, 1-0, with 28 saves vs. San Antonio on Feb. 21 and limited opponents to two goals or fewer in six of his decisions.
Hogs Add Scoring Touch in Postseason Push:
February proved fruitful on the scoresheet for the IceHogs, with six of their nine wins coming while scoring three or more goals. Forward Dylan Sikura (two goals, seven assists) and defenseman Lucas Carlsson (one goal, eight assists) led the IceHogs with nine points in the month. Forwards Garrett Mitchell, John Quenneville, Brandon Hagel, Gabriel Gagne and Alexandre Fortin each netted four goals to lead the team.
Mitchell A Welcome Addition to IceHogs:
Looking to add some grit to the IceHogs roster, the club signed veteran forward Garrett Mitchell on a professional tryout contract on Feb. 6 and bringing him up from the ECHL’s Reading Royals. A veteran of 402 AHL games at the time of signing and also experience as an AHL team captain for three seasons, the Regina, Saskatchewan, native paid immediate dividends for the team with his work ethic and physical and added four goals and an assist for five points in 11 games in February including a two-goal performance at Manitoba on Feb. 13. The IceHogs rewarded his efforts with an AHL contract for the rest of the season and the 2020-21 season.
Making Big Brother Proud on Blackhawks Night:
The IceHogs celebrated their annual Chicago Blackhawks Night on Feb. 7 vs. San Antonio to honor their affiliation with the NHL club and further strengthen the history and connection between the two franchises. After an enthusiastic and inspiring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Blackhawks Anthem Singer Jim Cornelison and Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk leading the chants and cheers all night, the IceHogs delighted the BMO Harris Bank crowd with a 3-2 overtime win. Alexandre Fortin, Nic Beaudin and John Quenneville provided the scoring for the IceHogs.
Thank You, San Antonio:
Sadly, Collin Delia’s 1-0 shutout win against the Rampage on Feb. 21 would be the final time the IceHogs would host and see the Rampage in their history. The Rampage’s AHL membership was purchased by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights prior to the Feb. 7-8 meetings at the BMO with intention to move the club to Henderson, Nevada. The two teams would never play their scheduled final meeting on Apr. 8 and San Antonio. The IceHogs went 4-3-0 against the Rampage during the season and held an all-time record of 38-24-3-4.