ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves are just one day away from kicking off the first round of the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs. The two teams traded blows throughout the regular season, and the rivalry is set to extend into the postseason with Game 1 set for Saturday night at the Allstate Arena.
The playoff series is a continuation of the heated regular-season Illinois Lottery Cup matchup that concluded with the two teams matching each other with six wins in regulation. The closely-contested battle was decided in the final game of the regular season when the Wolves completed a weekend sweep with a 5-4 win over the Hogs on April 14.
Eight of the 12 games between the Wolves and IceHogs were decided by just one goal this season, and just two of 12 meetings were settled by more than two goals. The 12-game series also featured four contests extending beyond regulation, including three overtime finals and one shootout. Once all was said and done in the regular season, the Wolves ultimately escaped the series with a four-point edge over the IceHogs, with Chicago posting a record of 6-2-3-1 against Rockford, and the Hogs owning a 6-6-0-0 clip against the Wolves.
Saturday’s opener and Game 1 will mark the first time Rockford and Chicago have met in the postseason since the 2008 Calder Cup playoffs. The IceHogs routed Houston 4-1 in the best-of-seven opening round that year, while the Wolves defeated Milwaukee 4-2 in the 2008 postseason to advance to a showdown with Rockford.
In the second round of the 2008 Calder Cup playoffs, the one-seed Chicago thumped the IceHogs 4-1 and 7-3 in the first two contests, respectively, of the series at the Allstate Arena. However, the two-seed Rockford rallied from a 2-0 deficit to reel off three straight victories and claim a 3-2 edge in the series entering Game 6 at the-then Rockford MetroCentre. Chicago, one game from elimination, clipped the Hogs 4-3 in Game 6 to even the series at three games apiece, before skating to a 4-1 triumph in the decisive Game 7 to eliminate the IceHogs from the 2008 postseason.
Rockford now enters the 2018 Calder Cup playoff matchup against Wolves with its usual cast having enjoyed success against Chicago during the regular season. Hogs scoring leader, Anthony Louis, shares the team lead with AHL All-Star Carl Dahlstrom with eight points apiece against the Wolves. Louis has scored four goals with four assists in 10 appearances in the series, while Dahlstrom has logged a team-high eight helpers in his 12 tilts against Chicago. IceHogs team MVP, Tyler Sikura, also shares the team lead with Louis in goals, tallying four markers of his own in the series.
The Wolves, on the other hand, boast their own trio of stars against the IceHogs with Teemu Pilkkinen, T.J. Tynan and Beau Bennett each having posted 10+ points in the 2017-18 matchup. Pulkkinen leads all Chicago skaters with 14 points (9g, 5a) against Rockford, while Tynan has collected three goals and seven assists, and Bennett has notched 10 helpers. Chicago’s roster also features Rockford’s all-time leading scorer in Brandon Pirri, who has chipped in six goals and two assists in 10 appearances against his former Hogs team.
The regular-season series wound down with several “chippy” contests that paced the teams’ combined total of nearly 300 penalty minutes. Rockford, led by Henrik Samuelsson (19 PIMs) and Chris DiDomenico (18 PIMs), totaled 159 PIMs against the Wolves (13 PIMs/game), and Chicago, led by Paul Thompson (16 PIMs) and Pirri (14 PIMs), was whistled 137 PIMs against the IceHogs (11 PIMs/game).
If the regular season is any indicator of the upcoming matchup, the IceHogs and Wolves are set for a tightly-contested and hard-fought series, both on the scoreboard and on the ice. The two teams are separated by just one point in the overall series over the last five years, with Rockford entering Saturday’s Game 1 with 68 points against Chicago, and Chicago tallying 69 points against Rockford.
Next Home Game: Sunday, April 22 vs. Chicago (Calder Cup Playoffs | Game 2/Ticket A)
The Rockford IceHogs open up their home slate of the 2017-18 Calder Cup Playoffs with Game 2 (Ticket A) against the Chicago Wolves. Tickets can be purchased at IceHogs.com, by calling (815) 968-5222 or in-person at the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office beginning Monday morning at 10 a.m.