To explain the Rockford IceHogs of late, I will borrow a line from the recent Haley Reinhart concert I attended. “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”
After starting the season with a sizzling 6-1 record, the IceHogs have lost 6 of their last 8 games and now stand at 7-6 on the season. The recent skid leaves them tied for 4th place in the Central Division of the Western Conference of the AHL.
Last Saturday, the IceHogs beat the Admirals 5-2 in Milwaukee. The victory over their area rivals snapped a 5 game losing streak. Beating the 2nd place team and then heading home for 5 straight home games seemed like a nice setup to turn things around. Instead, Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Iowa Wild has left everyone mystified.
Wednesday’s 10:30 am start was a rarity. The BMO Harris Bank Center was filled with students on this special school day game. Bus load after bus load of young fans entered the arena cheering and kept it loud all game long. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm f the crowd didn’t translate to a win for the home team.
The game started on a poor note as Darren Raddysh (my “Stick to Click”) took a penalty 8 seconds into the game. On the bright side, the IceHogs killed that penalty. There was hope that would spark the team.
Midway through the period, Alexandre Fortin scored his first goal of the season to put the IceHogs up 1-0. Unfortunately, a few minutes later the Wild’s Zack Mitchell scored a shorthanded goal, his 4th in 4 games, giving him a team-leading 13 points for the season.
The score remained the same until the 8:36 mark of the 3rd period. The Wild’s Justin Kloos put one past J.F. Berube to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. Despite a late offensive flurry by the IceHogs, the game ended 2-1.
Statistically, the teams tied with 27 shots on goal. The Wild spent 2 more minutes in the penalty box by way of 6 penalties to the IceHogs’ 5. Disappointingly, the Wild’s shorthanded goal was a bit of a gut punch.
I can’t say the IceHogs played poorly. Aside from that power play mishap, the game was fairly evenly played. In fact, the IceHogs seemed to have a steadier offensive surge, especially in the 3rd period.
Going back to my original pondering, what exactly is happening here? Coach Jeremy Colliton is just as mystified and bewildered right now as the fans. Coach Colliton is confident this is part of the growing process and the natural highs and lows of any season.
I can’t disagree with Coach Colliton, nor can I find much fault with the team. Except for the 6-0 loss to San Antonio, the IceHogs have not been blown out in any loss this season. The IceHogs are always in the game and always seem to be playing hard. They are falling just short of late though.
In the post-game media session, Coach Colliton was positive about the team and about many aspects of the game. He spoke of several players stepping up of late, but declined to name names for fear of leaving some out. He spoke of staying the course and playing through the rough patch.
The IceHogs now have 4 more home games in the next 9 days, including 2 more against the Wild. This is the perfect recipe for changing the direction.
While the latest stretch is disappointing, it isn’t shocking. The IceHogs have undergone a lot of change since last season. The coaching staff needs time to mold the team. The 6-1 start wasn’t a fluke. This team has talent.
With a 7-6 record, almost 20% into the season, the next stretch w\should be a good indication of what the team is. If the team can be a bit more successful in converting their offensive surges, they will get over the hump.
One thing I know, this team is confident and hustling. I see that in practicing, in the media sessions and through talking with them. I believe the pieces will start falling back into place starting Saturday against Grand Rapids.
As always, you can check out the post-game media sessions and other videos on the Rockford IceHogs YouTube channel. You can also check out all of my interviews with the IceHogs on the Johngy’s Beat YouTube Rockford IceHogs playlist.