Saturday, March 28, 2015

LEIGHTON'S HISTORIC SHUTOUT HELPS ICEHOGS DOWN FLAMES

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By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Andrew Camp
Rockford goaltender moves into second place in AHL history books after 4-0 win in Adirondack
 
Glens Falls, N.Y. - With their offense scoring four goals, the Rockford IceHogs (39-19-5-2) didn't necessarily need a standout performance from their goaltender to find success on Friday night. They still received one for the record books. Michael Leighton's 41st-career AHL shutout paved the way for a 4-0 IceHogs victory over the Adirondack Flames (31-26-6-2) at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

The 25-save performance moved Leighton into a second-place tie with Gil Mayer (1949-63) on the AHL's all-time shutout list. Picking up his fifth shutout of the season, the 33-year-old Leighton now sits just four shutouts shy of hockey legend Johnny Bower's league record mark of 45, set from 1945-58. 

With the win Rockford additionally set a franchise record of their own with their ninth shutout of the season, eclipsing the previous mark of eight set in 2004-05, when the team was a member of the now-defunct United Hockey League.

Leighton's shutout effort was facilitated by a decisive performance by all his teammates in front of him, as the IceHogs controlled play from Friday's outset en route to picking up their sixth-straight victory. Rockford scored in each period to help complete a four-game season sweep of Adirondack; the win was their third victory over the Flames in the last 10 days. 

The win keeps the surging IceHogs within a stone's throw away from the top of the Western Conference. Holding 85 points with 11 games left to play, Rockford could finish the night back on top of the Midwest Division, depending on the results of Friday night's matchup between Grand Rapids and Texas. The IceHogs' three-game road trip continues on Saturday with a showdown with the Utica Comets, who sit two points in front in the standings.

In a tight first period, Rockford grabbed the lead that they would not relinquish thanks to center Dennis Rasmussen and a quick transition attack. Right wing Dane Walters forced an Adirondack turnover in the neutral zone, and quickly sent an outlet pass toward defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk at the Rockford line. Baiting a Flames forechecker, van Riemsdyk advanced the puck up the ice to a wheeling Rasmussen, who hit the offensive zone with speed, stepped to the middle and sent a wrist shot through traffic, beating Flames goaltender Brad Thiessen to the blocker side. Rasmussen's 11th goal of the season came at 7:41 of the opening frame, which ended 1-0 in favor of the visitors. 

Rockford elevated their play in the second, spending large amounts of time in the Adirondack zone and adding a pair of markers courtesy of Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Spencer Abbott.

After holding the Flames deep in their zone for over a minute, van Riemsdyk fired a shot on net that took a sharp hop off of Thiessen's left pad. Positioned right on top of the goal crease, Labrie popped the puck in the air with one swing of his stick and swatted it into the net with the second. The impressive display of hand-eye coordination doubled the IceHogs lead at 7:09 of the second. With the primary assists on Rockford's first two goals van Riemsdyk logged his first-multi point outing as a professional. 

Labrie's goal wasn't the end of Rockford's second-period offense, as Spencer Abbott made it a 3-0 game just under six minutes later. Brandon Mashinter gained the Adirondack zone after receiving a crisp cross-ice feed from Peter Regin. Holding the puck along the left wall, Mashinter looked for a passing lane while evading a defender, then delivered a beautiful behind-the-back pass right to the trailing Abbott. The winger took a step unmarked toward the slot and snapped one inside the left post for his 13th of the season. The ex-Toronto Marlie now has six goals and three assists in nine games since coming to Rockford at the trade deadline. 

With the Flames looking for anything that could spark a rally as the third period began, the IceHogs dealt one final blow with a goal just 2:55 into play. In just his third game back after missing the previous 41 with a broken arm, Alex Broadhurst made it 4-0 on a breakaway. Receiving a pinpoint stretch pass from Stephen Johns, Broadhurst walked in alone and fooled Thiessen with a quick move for what was the first goal of the season for Rockford's leading rookie scorer a year ago. 

Thiessen finished with 30 saves, finding himself on the losing side against the IceHogs for the fourth time this season.

On the other side Leighton, while never overwhelmed by his opposition, was steady when called upon, as he has done all year for the IceHogs. Leighton was at his best in the second period, when he turned away 14 shots en route to picking up win number 18 on the season. 

Special teams were hardly a factor Friday, as Rockford and Adirondack both finished 0-for-1 on the power play. It was only the second game in their last seven in which the IceHogs failed to find a goal with the man advantage. 

Saturday's clash with the North Division-leading Comets is schedule for a 6 p.m. start from the Utica Memorial Auditorium. It will be the second and final time Rockford and Utica cross paths during the regular season, with the IceHogs taking game one in a 3-0 shootout win at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Jan. 24.

Next Home Game: Friday, April 3 vs. Grand Rapid Griffins: Face-off is at 7 p.m. It’s Golf Rockford Night at the BMO as the first 1,500 fans into the building will receive an IceHogs “Jeff Cap” thanks to Bud Light. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. for fans 21 and older to enjoy another Blue Flame Lounge pre-game party with live music courtesy of Dan Phelps.

Friday, March 27, 2015

WHERE ARE THE ICEHOGS GARDEN GNOMES?

By: Mike Peck
IceHogs announce Garden Gnome scavenger hunt

Rockford, Ill.- With spring (somewhat) in the air, the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs announced that they will be conducting a garden gnome scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt will lead up to Garden Gnome Night presented by Riverside Dental on Saturday, April 4, when Rockford hosts the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. The first 2,500 fans to the game that night will receive a gnome, but fans can get their hands on one beforehand with this scavenger hunt.

Beginning on Monday, March 30, the IceHogs will release a clue on their Twitter and Facebook page at 11 a.m. as to where the gnomes will be that day. There will be 15 gnomes available at each location in the Rockford area. The promotion will conclude on Friday, April 3. Offer is good while supplies last.

For tickets to Garden Gnome Night or any upcoming IceHogs game, call (815) 968-5222, online through IceHogs.com or in person at the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office or any Ticketmaster location.

ROCKFORD BEGINS ROAD TRIP IN ADIRONDACK TONIGHT

By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Todd Reicher
IceHogs head east looking to extend winning streak

Glens Falls, N.Y. - Over the past couple of weeks, the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs quietly built a five-game winning streak right in their backyard. Now the IceHogs (38-19-5-2) try to keep rolling during a trio of games in the Eastern time zone, beginning Friday night as they visit the Adirondack Flames. The third meeting in ten days between Rockford and Adirondack is scheduled for a 6 p.m. puck drop from the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Fans back in Illinois can catch all the action from New York by tuning into 23.2 Antenna TV or on the live stream at AHLLive.com. Television coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with the IceHogs Warm Up Pre-Game Show. For up-to-the-minute updates make sure to follow the IceHogs on Twitter (@GoIceHogs).

Down to their final 12 games of the regular season, the IceHogs embark on a weekend trip to take on a pair of North Division foes. After Friday’s tilt with the Flames, Rockford will make their lone visit to the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Saturday night to take on the Comets. One final visit to Grand Rapids and Van Andel Arena awaits on Wednesday before the IceHogs return to the Forest City for a weekend set April 3-4.

The brief road swing comes right on the heels of Rockford’s longest homestand of the season, one that could only be described as a complete success. The IceHogs picked up victories in all four games during their extended stay at the BMO Harris Bank Center, bringing their overall unbeaten streak to five games, beginning with a 4-3 victory in Chicago on March 15.

Rockford is 9-1-1-0 in their last 11 games, and has jumped right back up near the top of the Western Conference standings. The IceHogs enter Friday with 83 points, in possession of the West’s fourth seed. The San Antonio Rampage - the newest team to assume the top spot in the conference, sit three points in front of Rockford, while the Midwest Division-leading Griffins are within reach at 84 points.

The surging IceHogs picked up their most recent win Wednesday night in a 3-2 decision over the Lake Erie Monsters. In what was the final meeting between Rockford and Lake Erie this season, the IceHogs used a pair of first period goals and another in the opening minute of the second to race out to a 3-0 lead. The Monsters staged a fevered comeback attempt, but Rockford - aided by 13 third-period saves from Antti Raanta - held on for its fifth straight victory. Rookie defenseman Ville Pokka finished the night with a goal and an assist, while center Mark McNeill chipped in a pair of helpers. 
Two days after downing a Lake Erie squad clinging to postseason hopes, the IceHogs meet another team desperate for points as the Calder Cup Playoffs draw closer. Adirondack, in the thick of a four-team battle for the final playoff berth in the West, finds itself in 10th place and two points off of the pace of the eighth-place Hamilton Bulldogs. The Flames held the eighth seed up until Wednesday, when a pivotal 2-1 home loss to the Bulldogs shuffled the standings. 
Friday's season series finale between the IceHogs and Flames follows just a week after the two teams met twice in Rockford to begin the homestand at the BMO. The IceHogs came out on top 4-3 in a shootout on March 18, followed up with a 4-0 shutout three nights later. A victory in Glens Falls on Friday would give Rockford the four-game season sweep over the Calgary Flames affiliate; the IceHogs claimed a 4-2 win in their previous trip to eastern New York back on Oct. 16. 
On offense, Flames forward Ben Hanowski has scored goals in three of his last four games, the first of which helped forced overtime during Rockford's shootout win last Wednesday. 
Goaltender Brad Thiessen has gotten the nod in each of his team's last four outings. Over that span, the sixth-year pro has posted a 1-2-1 record, a 2.21 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. Thiessen stopped 66 of 72 shots faced in the two games last week at the BMO, including a 41-save performance on Wednesday.
Next Home Game: Friday, April 3 vs. Grand Rapid Griffins: Face-off is at 7 p.m. It’s Golf Rockford Night at the BMO as the first 1,500 fans into the building will receive an IceHogs “Jeff Cap” thanks to Bud Light. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. for fans 21 and older to enjoy another Blue Flame Lounge pre-game party with live music courtesy of Dan Phelps.

Monday, March 23, 2015

WEEK 24 RECAP- HOGS EXTEND WINNING STREAK TO FOUR GAMES

By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Todd Reicher
Rockford keeps pace at top of Western Conference with three inter-division wins

Week 24 Recap: 

The resurgent IceHogs continued to roll toward their first playoff berth since 2010 as they began a four game homestand with three victories in Week 24. Rockford defeated the Adirondack Flames twice; 4-3 in a shootout on Wednesday and in 4-0 shutout fashion on Saturday night, before wrapping up the weekend with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Texas Stars. With 13 contests left in their regular season schedule, the IceHogs only sit three points behind the Midwest Division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins, while holding two games in hand. 

Week 24 Results:                  
Wednesday, March 18, Adirondack 3 vs. Rockford 4 (SO)   
Saturday, March 21, Adirondack 0 vs. Rockford 4       
Sunday, March 22, Texas 3 vs. Rockford 4             

Week 25 Schedule:
Wednesday, March 25 vs. Lake Erie, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 27 at Adirondack, 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 at Utica, 6 p.m.                                            

Bacon Bits:
-With their 36th win of the season on Saturday, the IceHogs surpassed their win total from a season ago (35) with 14 games remaining on the 2014-15 slate

-The IceHogs drew their ninth sellout of the season on Saturday, including seventh in the club’s last 11 home games, one shy of the all-time franchise record of 10 set last season

-Rockford hosted their 16th annual jersey auction on Sunday and the fans helped raise a record $79,920

-Through 16 jersey auctions, the IceHogs have raised $809,230 for local charities

-With their 4-3 victory over Texas on Sunday, Rockford completed a four-game season sweep over the defending Calder Cup Champions

-Center Peter Regin had his team season-long seven game point streak snapped on Sunday

-Regin totaled 2g-6a-8pts during the point streak

-Defenseman Stephen Johns recorded his first professional multi-goal game, when he scored twice in Saturday’s victory over Adirondack

-The rookie blueliner has piled up eight points (3g-5a) in his last six games, after only marking eight assists over his first 32 games this season

-Antti Raanta notched Rockford’s franchise record eighth shutout of the season on Saturday, his first career AHL shutout

-All four goalies who have suited up and played for Rockford this season, Mac Carruth (1), Scott Darling (2), Michael Leighton (4) and Antti Raanta (1), have recorded a shutout

-Since his IceHogs debut on March 6, forward Spencer Abbott has 5g-2a-7pts in seven games

-Rockford is 8-1-1-0 over their past 10 games and 11-3-1-0 dating back to Feb. 13

-Rockford has scored four goals in each game during their current four game winning streak

-Over their 10-game hot streak, Rockford is averaging 3.70 goals per contest

-Over the past 10 games, Rockford’s power play has gone 10-42, a 23.8% conversion rate

-In 23 games dating back to Jan. 16, the IceHogs power play has gone 18-86, scoring on 20.9% of their man advantages

-With 81 standings points, Rockford sits four points out of the top spot in the Western Conference in fifth place, but with two games in-hand on all four teams ahead of them in the standings

Hot Hog: Week 24
Spencer Abbott    Right Wing (3GP, 3G, +2)
Since getting acquired by the Blackhawks and assigned to the IceHogs, forward Spencer Abbott has been a catalyst on the offensive side for Rockford. In Week 24, Abbott played a key role in helping Rockford take three wins. On Wednesday night, Abbott scored two third period goals for the IceHogs against Adirondack before notching the lone shootout marker in the Hogs 4-3 win over the Flames. In another tight contest on Sunday against Texas, Abbott buried the game-winning goal in Rockford’s 4-3 victory over the Stars.

Upcoming Games:
Wednesday, March 25 vs. Lake Erie Monsters: 
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. The IceHogs finish off a season long four game homestand during another WXRX Dollar Day at the BMO. Fans can enjoy one dollar hot dogs, sodas, beers and companion tickets throughout the night. The matchup is the last of eight meetings between the IceHogs and Monsters this year. Rockford holds a 4-2-1-0 record over their Midwest Division rival, including a 2-0-1-0 mark at home.

Friday, March 27 at Adirondack Flames: Face-off is at 6 p.m. Rockford embarks on a weekend trip in New York as they wrap up their season slate with Adirondack Friday night at the Glens Falls Civic Center. It is the third meeting in 10 days with the Flames, with the IceHogs taking each of the first two at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Rockford was victorious in their first visit to Glens Falls, a 4-2 win back on Oct. 16.

Saturday, March 28 at Utica Comets: Game starts at 6 p.m. Rockford finishes its weekend trip with a matchup against fellow Western Conference power Utica at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Sunday is the second and final regular season meeting between the IceHogs and Comets, with Rockford taking a 3-0 win at the BMO in their first showdown on Jan. 24.

Bud Light Hog Talk Monday Night At Mulligan’s and Grill:
Bud Light Hog Talk returns on Monday, March 23 at Mulligan’s Pub and Grill from 6-7 p.m. Mulligan’s is located on North Main St. Fans can join Mike Peck or TJ Hogan from 6-7 p.m. on most Mondays throughout the season, as they chat with IceHogs players, coaches and front office members. The show will feature forward Spencer Abbott and Goaltending Coach Andrew Allen. Take advantage of food and Bud Light specials at Mulligan’s. The show will be re-aired on Tuesdays from 7-8 p.m. on WIFR’s 23.2 “Antenna TV.”

The IceHogs Broadcasting Network:
Catch every IceHogs game, home and road, in 2014-15 on WIFR’s 23.2, “Antenna TV.” The games can also be viewed on Comcast Cable channel 436, Charter Cable channel 193 or Mediacom 101 in the Rockford market and online through AHLLive.com. Fans can also listen to the action for free on AHLLive.com. For a complete listing of TV stations carrying IceHogs games, visit IceHogs.com. Every broadcast will start with the IceHogs Warm Up 30 minutes prior to puck drop.

Tickets On Sale for 2014-2015!
IceHogs individual game tickets are now on sale! Call (815) 968-5222 to reserve your seats for any IceHogs regular season game during the 2014-15 season. Tickets can also be purchased online at IceHogs.com, in person at the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office in downtown Rockford, or any Ticketmaster outlet, including Walmart.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

HOGS CLAIM SECOND ILLINOIS LOTTERY CUP

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By: Nate Haeni
Photo by Todd Reicher
Chicago, Ill. – With a 4-3 win at the Allstate Arena on Sunday, the Rockford IceHogs have staked claim to the Illinois Lottery Cup for the second time in its four year existence.

The Illinois Lottery Cup is awarded annually to the top American Hockey League team in the state of Illinois. Despite having one head-to-head matchup with the Chicago Wolves remaining on the 2014-15 schedule, Rockford’s win on Sunday coupled with a 7-3-1-0 record against the Wolves secured the cup’s return to Rockford.

"The Illinois Lottery Cup is representative of a spirited, intrastate competition between two fine Illinois hockey teams," said Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones. "Congratulations to the Rockford IceHogs for capturing this year's Cup -- and for setting the stage for an exciting conclusion to the American Hockey League season."

"Our organization has had an outstanding year on and off the ice. Winning the Illinois Lottery Cup against a team as skilled as the Wolves is a testament to the work and dedication our coaching staff and players have to the Rockford franchise," said RAVE Executive Director Troy Flynn. "We look forward to the final Lottery Cup match up against the Wolves on April 17th at the BMO Harris Bank Center and a push towards the playoffs."

After the Peoria Rivermen, then members of the AHL, took the inaugural championship in 2011-12, Rockford won its first Illinois Lottery Cup during in 2012-13. The IceHogs combined for 13 total victories over the Rivermen and Wolves during the 2012-13 campaign.

The Illinois Lottery Cup brings a new level of excitement to the regular season games played between the IceHogs and Wolves. Fans are able to get in on the fun as well as the Cup is on display at each game between the two squads for photo opportunities. Additionally, special in-game promotions, such as the “Illinois Lottery Powerball Toss” has provided fans with free instant lottery game tickets.

About the Illinois Lottery
Founded in 1974, the Illinois Lottery has contributed over $18 billion to the state’s Common School Fund to assist K-12 public schools, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to the Capital Projects Fund and to special causes like Illinois Veterans, the fight against breast cancer, MS research, and assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to playing in-store, the Illinois Lottery offers online and mobile play for Mega Millions, Powerball and Lotto at www.illinoislottery.com. Players must be at least 18 years old. 

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