With the 4-0 shutout loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Rockford IceHogs have lost three in a row and ten of their last eleven games. They are in last place in the Western Conference, with virtually no hope for the playoffs this season.
The IceHogs stand at 22-33-9-3 with 56 points and a .418 winning percentage. The Charlotte Checkers, with 70 points, currently own the 8th and final playoff spot. Nine teams, including the IceHogs, are separated by a mere 14 points. Unfortunately, this late in the season, the gap is insurmountable for the IceHogs.
Perhaps an omen for the night or just a sign of the bad luck all season, the game started with a near-goal by Brandon Mashinter. The goal was disallowed because of goaltender interference. That would be as close as the IceHogs would come all night.
In the post-game media session (see media session here), Coach Ted Dent didn’t blame the call for the loss. Instead, he looked at the positive of the strong rush to the net and the shot by Mashinter.
The IceHogs actually outshot the Griffins 37-21. The wide margin did not translate to success for the IceHogs, but Coach Dent looked at the positive of putting up that much offense against “the very talented” Griffins.
Coach Dent compared this game to the season as a whole. The IceHogs get the shots and the opportunities, but they have trouble finishing the play. They do not have that one or two high-end goal scorers. At one point, the IceHogs were near the top of the AHL in shots, but near the bottom in goals scored. Losing their three top scorers (Spencer Abbott, Mark McNeil and Sam Carrick) at the trade deadline didn’t help that cause.
Continuing to look at the positives, Coach Dent cited the team’s fast play, keeping the Griffins on their end fo the ice, staying out of the penalty box and puck management as good signs. He just felt that the IceHogs just didn’t have enough tonight or this season.
Despite the recent losing streak, the IceHogs are not just playing out the string. This team has not given up. Their focus and dedication was clear last night as they came out strong and kept pushing all game. That’s a credit to Coach Dent and the character of the team.
Coach Dent continues to stress the learning aspect at this time of the season. Over the next nine games, everyone is looking to finish strong as a team and as individual players. The team will continue to work on player development. Finishing out of last place would be an ego boost, but does that really carry momentum into next season? More important is the experience and the lessons the players learn.