Jeff Glass has a lot of things to be proud of from his 2017-18 hockey season. The veteran netminder starred with the IceHogs early in the year, made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks in December and returned to Rockford to help guide the Hogs to two straight playoff wins with their backs against the wall in the Western Conference Finals of the Calder Cup playoffs.
But there's also one other thing he's especially proud of this year.
“Being a leader,” said Glass in his exit interview after listing off accomplishments from this season. “I really enjoyed all those roles this year, and looking back, it was a great year.”
Glass, playing between the pipes in his 13th professional season, was a leader on and off the ice for the Hogs. In addition to helping mentor the IceHogs’ young, talented roster, he also turned in a successful season of his own, going 15-9-2 with a 2.82 GAA and .904 save percentage in 28 AHL appearances with Rockford. His 15 wins tied for the second most of his AHL career.
The 32-year-old also earned a recall to Chicago and won his NHL debut with 42 saves at Edmonton on Dec. 29. Glass went on to earn points in four of his first five NHL appearances, before finishing with a 3-7-3 record and 3.36 GAA in 15 games with the Blackhawks.
“It was an exciting year for myself, playing in the NHL and having some success at that level,” said Glass. “And being able to prove that I can be relied on at (the AHL) level for a few different things. It was exciting.”
The IceHogs’ playoff was Glass’ first taste of postseason action in the AHL, but also marked the goaltender’s sixth overall trip to the postseason during his pro career. The Calgary, Alberta native helped the Charlotte Checkers to the ECHL playoffs in 2005-06, and made four trips to the KHL playoffs with three different teams over a span from 2009-14. With that wide breadth of experiences from his career under his belt, Glass said there were a few things that made the 2017-18 Rockford IceHogs stand out as a truly special team.
“We evolved as a group, we evolved as guys,” said Glass. “You saw how our team changed this year, it was a much different team earlier than it was here at the end. We worked to get to the position we were at the end, and no one can take that away from us.”
That evolution featured Rockford’s impressive run to the postseason, where the club vaulted from sixth place in the AHL Central Division to secure a berth in the playoffs. The IceHogs went 14-5-1-1 down the stretch and swept the first seven games of the Calder Cup playoffs. Glass said the connection built in the locker room as the IceHogs forced their way into playoffs really separated this season’s team from his previous experiences.
“This year was a little different because there were so many guys in [the locker room] you get to know and you realize where they’ve come from and where they’re headed,” said Glass. “To be a part of that journey this year was pretty cool. Again, it sucks we’re not playing [in the Calder Cup Finals], we fully expected to be in Toronto right now, but these guys will have big futures next year and it was fun to be a part of this year.”
With the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, Glass also officially concludes his two-year contract with the Blackhawks. The IceHogs goaltender, who turned an AHL deal with the IceHogs into a contract with Chicago last year, now hits the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Glass said he has only great things to say about both the Blackhawks and IceHogs, and now just needs a little time to move on from the tough loss in the Western Conference Finals before he can accurately reflect on the year and evaluate the next step in his career.
“It was a good year, it’s obviously still fresh, losing, and that’s not fun, and I think we all thought we should still be playing now,” said Glass in his exit interview. “It hasn’t quite healed yet – over time it will – and I think then it will be easier to realize it was a successful year.”