Rockford, Ill. – Last season, centers Vince Hinostroza and Tanner Kero set new rookie records for the Rockford IceHogs. Hinostroza notched 51 points to become the first rookie to ever lead the IceHogs in scoring as well as marking the first time a first-year pro has reached the 50-point plateau. Kero, meanwhile, knocked home 20 goals to become the first Rockford rookie to score 20 goals in a season.
Confidence can be a large factor in a successful season, and can be especially important for a player in the midst of their first professional campaign. After appearing in five games and tallying two assists in 2014-15, Hinostroza had to wait until his 21st game in 2015-16 to find his first pro goal. “At that point, it’s really mental,” he said. “You go 20 games without scoring a goal and you get really frustrated. [Bryan] Bickell actually told me to cut my stick, and I scored the next game. You like to think that helps, but I think it’s just mental.”
He was able to stay positive during the goal drought, and once that first puck found the back of the net Hinostroza soared to the top of the IceHogs scoring leaders. “I think it was just my mindset going in,” said Hinostroza. “Obviously everyone here is a great player. I just want to work my hardest every day and show what I can do. Hopefully down the road it’s just going to continue to get better.”
That hard work paid off for Hinostroza as he not only paced Rockford in scoring but ranked 9th among all AHL first year players. “It’s definitely really special,” he said of the accomplishment. “From October until now, I feel like I have grown a lot as a player and a person. Being here in Rockford as a first-year pro has helped me a lot.”
Despite missing a month of the season with Rockford’s NHL affiliate, the Chicago Blackhawks, Kero still managed to post 20 goals in 60 games and finished fourth on the team with 39 points. “I’m pleased with my performance,” said Kero. “I try to help the team offensively and by being a two-way player. I was fortunate to play with good linemates all season and benefitted from Vince Hinostroza’s playmaking ability.”
Kero was called up to Chicago in late October after notching six goals in the IceHogs first seven games. Kero's time with the Blackhawks helped him adjust to the professional ranks and learn what it takes to stick in the NHL. “I was fortunate to get a chance to go to the NHL early in the season and have success with Rockford early on. I saw the amount of hard work both on and off the ice that it takes to hold a job in the NHL. The Blackhawks development staff gave me great feedback and this summer I am going to continue to work on my explosiveness and stick-strength.”
A strong rookie campaign raises the bar for the following season, a challenge that Kero welcomes. “It has a big impact going into next season. I try to set the bar high each season, and am going to set it higher this year. I think every player’s goal is to get to the NHL and stay there.”
To watch Vince Hinostroza’s Exit Interview, click here.
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