Saturday night, the BMO Harris Bank Center held a sellout crowd of 6,398 in the 2016-17 season finale for the Rockford IceHogs. Unfortunately, the IceHogs did not rise to the occasion, falling 5-2 to the Iowa Wild.
The Wild scored three goals in the first period and two more in the first six minutes of the second period to take a 5-0 lead. After the last goal, IceHogs’ goalie Lars Johansson destroyed his stick by smashing it on the net. His frustration was obvious and understandable.
In 39 games, Johansson had 2.75 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. Neither of those numbers cracks the top twenty in the respective AHL stats category, but the blame doesn’t lie entirely on the shoulders of Johansson (or other IceHogs goalies Mac Carruth, Jeff Glass or Jake Hildebrand). A strong defensive presence in front of the net has been missing too often this season.
The IceHogs finished with a record of 25-39-9-3 with 62 points and a .408 winning percentage. The loss left the IceHogs in the last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference and 15th place in the conference.
Despite the inconsistent play all season and the quick deficit Saturday night, the fans stayed positive throughout the last game. When the IceHogs scored each of the third-period goals, the crowd erupted. When the final buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted again and continued the appreciative applause for several minutes.
The lovefest continued as the players gave their jerseys to selected lucky fans on the ice after the game. Despite their obvious frustration at the game and the season as a whole, the IceHogs stayed on the ice for a long stretch, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
To their credit, the IceHogs were not just putting on false smiles. The team truly appreciates their fans. Near the locker room, in areas not seen by the general public, I heard several IceHogs talking positively about the crowd and experience.
In Coach Ted Dent’s post-game media session, he talked about some of the positive points of the season, along with the disappointments. He gave a fair assessment of the situation. PC Labrie’s Post-game media session was similar. This reporter asked several questions during both sessions.
I would like to thank the IceHogs organization for their hospitality all season (my fifth covering the team). I also want to thank PuckPlanet.com for giving me another outlet to run my coverage of the sport and team I love. The 2016-17 season is over for the IceHogs, but our coverage will continue with pieces like the current series featuring former IceHogs in the NHL playoffs.