The Rockford IceHogs continue to slump, losing two games this last week. This brings their losing streak to six. As the season nears the end and with the playoffs in question, this is the worst time for the IceHogs to hit the skids.
The IceHogs are 21-30-8-3, which is good for 53 points and last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference of the AHL. They find themselves tied (with the Stockton Heat) for 12th place in points overall in the Western Conference, but are in 15th place in the playoffs race. They are 8 points behind the Cleveland Monsters for the 8th (and last) playoff spot.
The IceHogs have only 14 games left including their finale on April 14 against the Iowa Wild. They are the only winless team over the last five games. At 3-7 over their last 10 games, no team ahead of them has a worse record, although the Texas Stars share the disappointing mark.
Goalie Jeff Glass is still with the Chicago Blackhawks as regular backup goalie Scott Darling recovers from his injury. That leaves Lars Johansson and Mac Carruth to handle the net duties for Rockford. Johansson had been playing solidly of late, although not quite regularly as Glass had essentially been the regular starter. Whether it is Carruth or Johansson, the IceHogs will need their goalie to be on top of his game down the stretch.
Goalie play might be the most obvious key, but the whole team needs to kick it in gear. The various leaderboards do not have IceHogs near the top in any category. Individual stats do not win games, but without anyone near the league leaders, it is hard to pile wins.
The team is enjoying a rare four day weekend with no games. They resume play on Tuesday, March 14, when they host the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals are in 5th place with a record of 34-19-3-3 with 74 points. The Admirals hold a 5-3 edge over the IceHogs this season.
After Milwaukee, the IceHogs go to Manitoba for two games against the Moose. Sitting just one point behind the Moose, the IceHogs must split these games and probably need to sweep them to stay in the playoff picture. Minimally, between the three games this week, the IceHogs must win two.
On Media Day, Coach Ted Dent stressed the importance of playing low-scoring games. Of course, that puts the spotlight right back on the goaltending, but Dent also spread the responsibility around to all. The team used the relatively easy last week (only one game played) having a lot of small group meetings and studying film. With fourteen games left and a bit of an uphill climb, everyone must play every shift like the playoffs depend on it.