Saturday, May 23, 2015

BLACKHAWKS RECALL VAN RIEMSDYK

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By: Chicago Blackhawks
Photo by Todd Reicher
Chicago, Ill. - The Chicago Blackhawks announced today they recalled defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

van Riemsdyk, 23, notched one assist in 18 games in his first professional season with the Blackhawks. The Middletown, N.J., native also collected three assists in eight regular-season games with Rockford. Signed as a free agent on March 24, 2014, van Riemsdyk tallied his first professional point with an assist on Nov. 9 against San Jose. He previously recorded 75 points (16G, 59A) in three seasons at the University of New Hampshire.

Season Tickets for 2015-16 Now on Sale: Reserve your seats today for the IceHogs 17th season of professional hockey and ninth as the top AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Call (815) 847-6399 or visit icehogs.com to find a ticket package that fits your needs. 

ROUND TWO REWIND

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By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Todd Reicher
Taking one final look at the IceHogs/Griffins series

The hype and anticipation was palpable in the days leading up to the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins. It was a high-profile, high-stakes matchup between the best two teams in the AHL’s Midwest Division and two teams that share a blossoming regional rivalry as well. It pitted a young and hungry IceHogs squad excited to find their way into the postseason against a Griffins squad hungry to return to the league’s pinnacle two years removed from winning it all in 2013.

It was a matchup of two teams that dominated the league in the late months of the regular season, and two teams that found a rhythm in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs as well.  Each team entered the second round on a three-game winning streak (albeit Grand Rapids’ was in come-from-behind fashion).

Predictions called for a long, competitive and intensity-fueled battle between the IceHogs and Griffins - forecasts that all came to fruition except the first one. Unfortunately, Rockford’s long-awaited return to the Calder Cup Playoffs hit the skids in the second round, as the IceHogs’ first playoff appearance since 2010 ended with a five-game defeat to Grand Rapids.

While the end result may have been lopsided toward the second-seeded Griffins’ favor the play on the ice was much more of a toss-up. Out of the four Grand Rapids victories, two required an empty net cushion to hang on and one required overtime - although not much of it.

The IceHogs ultimately fell into an early hole at Van Andel Arena against a team that thrives on home ice, and did not have the necessary firepower to find their way out of it. Rockford was an overtime goal in Game 4 away from tying the series at two-games apiece, but suffered a tough bounce leading to a tougher loss - which put them on the edge of elimination.

The five-game series was extremely fast, brutally physical and played with an incredibly high level of skill, one that the IceHogs should find no shame in coming up short in. Despite entering the Calder Cup Playoffs with one of the youngest and inexperienced rosters in the AHL, Rockford proved that it belonged, trucking through the defending champion Texas Stars before meeting up with the buzz saw that was Teemu Pulkkinen and Company.

The future is bright for the Rockford IceHogs, and if they can build on their first taste of playoff success this decade, they will get another generous portion come next spring.

Game 1 - Wednesday, May 6 - IceHogs 3 at Griffins 5 (Van Andel Arena):
RECAP - BOX SCORE
If the second-round series was billed from the start as one between two teams that can open it up offensively if needed to - Game 1 from Grand Rapids was just as advertised. After a tight first period, things exploded in the latter 40 minutes with scoring aplenty and momentum changing hands multiple times.

As for the difference-maker, Grand Rapids turned to their resident offensive juggernaut Teemu Pulkkinen - who opened what would be a dominant series with a hat trick. A pair of late second-period goals from the forward helped the Griffins open a 3-1 lead, and his third served as the late game-winner after the IceHogs staged a third-period comeback.

Coming off of his series-clinching goal to end the Western Conference Quarterfinals, IceHogs defenseman Stephen Johns led his team on the comeback trail, posting a goal and an assist in short order to tie the game at three midway through the third period before Pulkkinen netted the game-winner.

Game 2 - Friday, May 8 - IceHogs 1 at Griffins 5 (Van Andel Arena):
RECAP - BOX SCORE

Grand Rapids continued to roll on home ice, scoring five unanswered goals en route to picking up their fifth-straight win at Van Andel Arena to begin the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Rockford got out to a strong start in Game 2, but couldn’t capitalize on their momentum, entering the first intermission at a 1-1 stalemate.  The Griffins grabbed the lead in the second and took over the game in the third, adding three over the final period (including another two from Pulkkinen) to seize a 2-0 lead in the series.

The late stages of the game were defined by its chippiness, with Rockford setting a single-game playoff record by logging 64 penalty minutes before it was all said and done - all but two of which were recorded in the last seven minutes of the game. The animosity between the two teams would only build as the series shifted to Rockford.

Game 3 - Wednesday, May 13 - Griffins 1 vs. IceHogs 4 (BMO Harris Bank Center):
RECAP - BOX SCORE
Down two games to none in the series and thoroughly outplayed in their last outing, the IceHogs needed a rebound upon their return to Rockford in Game 3. They delivered admirably, controlling the Griffins from wire-to-wire and climbing their way back into the series.

Stephen Johns once again served as Rockford’s spark plug logging a goal and an assist - leading all skaters on the ice with a +3 rating. His marker came at a critical time early in the third period to restore a two-goal lead that Teemu Pulkkinen whittled to one in the middle frame.

Mark McNeill and Ryan Hartman each netted their second goals of the postseason to put the IceHogs up 2-0 in the first period, and Spencer Abbott provided an empty net cushion. The real star of Game 3 was Rockford’s special teams, who killed off seven of eight Griffins power plays while adding both a shorthanded and power play goal of its own.

Game 4 - Thursday, May 14 - Griffins 2 vs. IceHogs 1 (OT - BMO Harris Bank Center):

RECAP - BOX SCORE

It was Grand Rapids’ turn for a bounce-back the following night, and the Griffins landed a devastating blow to the IceHogs’ playoff lives and their psyches with a Game 4 walk-off winner in the infant stages of overtime.  Rookie forward Tyler Bertuzzi potted his second goal of the game only 13 seconds into the fourth period to silence the Rockford crowd and push the hometown team to the brink of elimination.

Bertuzzi’s first of the game opened the scoring in what was in many aspects the most exciting and tightly-fought game of the series. A Phillip Danault equalizer halfway through the second set the stage for a frantic last 30 minutes of regulation; in which the IceHogs and Griffins came up empty on the scoreboard despite each finding a deluge of quality scoring looks.

Goaltenders Michael Leighton and Tom McCollum were the best two players on the ice through 60 minutes, Leighton having to make 15 saves in the third period to force overtime.

Game 5 - Sunday, May 17 - Griffins 5 vs. IceHogs 3 (BMO Harris Bank Center):
RECAP - BOX SCORE

As could be expected, the IceHogs dug in their heels and staged a feverish last stand in hopes of extending their season, but unfortunately, it came two periods too late. Rockford spotted the Griffins 3-0 and 4-1 leads, and was held to only nine shots on goal through 40 minutes in a season-ending Game 5 defeat at the BMO on Sunday night.

Only trailing 1-0 at the end of the first from a Teemu Pulkkinen power play blast, the IceHogs faltered a bit to begin the second period - essentially sealing their fate. Andy Miele struck in the first minute of the second, compelling Rockford Head Coach Ted Dent to yank Michael Leighton in favor of Mac Carruth, who was in turn beat less than two minutes into his tenure by Marek Tvrdon.

A stunned IceHogs squad found themselves facing elimination and a 5-1 deficit in the third period, after the Griffins tacked on an empty netter at the halfway point of the frame. Rockford got a pair back in the waning minutes of the game, but the damage was already done. Grand Rapids took the Game 5 victory and the series, advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons, while the IceHogs saw their most successful season since joining the AHL come to a close. 

Defenseman Stephen Johns (left) and left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (right) were top performers for their respective teams (Photo by Kris Gray)
17170563394_2a80d4ba25_k.jpgSeries 3 Stars:

3rd Star: Stephen Johns (2g-2a, 9 shots, +1)

One of four IceHogs who finished the five-game series with a plus-rating, Johns was the most consistent player on either side of the puck for Rockford. The rookie defenseman logged a pair of multi-point games, while playing top line minutes against the Griffins’ bevy of offensive weapons.

In his first taste of professional playoff hockey, Johns finished as the IceHogs top point-getter, scoring seven points (3g-4a) in eight games played. His heavy-yet-skilled play in his first full pro season all but assured that the Wampum, Penn. native has a bright future within the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

2nd Star: Tyler Bertuzzi (4g-2a, +5)


While Johns had himself another solid series, the Griffins used the stellar play of a rookie of their own to grab a stranglehold of the Western Conference Semifinals.  Bertuzzi proved to be a thorn in Rockford’s side from the outset, throwing up six points - including the game-winning goals in the Games 4 and 5.

The 20-year-old winger, fresh off of a four-year junior career with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, has carved himself a storybook start to his professional career. After appearing in only two regular season games with Grand Rapids, Bertuzzi has clicked at over a point-per-game pace in the first two rounds, collecting nine points in eight games played (6g-3a). A staggering four of the Sudbury, Ontario’s six goals have been game winning goals, none more dramatic than the overtime dagger he found 13 seconds into the  extra frame to give the Griffins a Game 4 victory.

1st Star: Teemu Pulkkinen (7g-2a, 23 shots)

For most players, Bertuzzi’s statline of four goals - half of the game-winning variety - over a five-game series would be tough to trump. Not for Teemu Pulkkinen, however. The AHL’s leading goal scorer through the regular season took his game to another level in the Western Conference Semifinals, and ravaged the IceHogs to the tune of seven goals and nine points in only five games.

After already coming into Game 1 against Rockford atop of the playoff scoring race with six goals in the Griffins’ five-game win over Toronto, Pulkkinen pulled away from the rest of the pack with five goals over the first two games at Van Andel Arena. His hat trick in Game 1 helped Grand Rapids grab the series lead, and a three-point third period in Game 2 ensured that his team would head to Rockford with a two-game advantage.

Pulkkinen has an astonishing 13 goals and two assists in 10 games so far this postseason, exactly halfway to tying the AHL record of 26 goals in a single playoff season, set by Bill McDougall of Cape Breton in 1993. The 23-year-old from Vaanta, Finland tallied 34 goals in only 46 games over the regular season.

Looking Ahead:

The offseason came in a hurry for the IceHogs, with the players and staff clearing out their lockers and starting to head their separate ways on Monday afternoon - less than 24 hours after their playoff run came to an end.

As was expected, the Chicago Blackhawks called for a handful of guys to bolster their “Black Aces,” and it was announced late Monday that forwards Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman as well as defensemen Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg would be joining the Blackhawks for the duration of their Stanley Cup run.

Back in the AHL, as of Tuesday the Griffins are still awaiting their opponent in the Western Conference Final, which will be either the top-seeded Utica Comets or the surprisingly upstart Oklahoma City Barons. The other two semifinalists need a decisive Game 7 to determine a victor, a game that will be played in Utica on Wednesday night. In the East, the first-seed Manchester Monarchs and the third-seed Hartford Wolf Pack are set to begin their series on Thursday in New Hampshire, with the victor moving on to the Calder Cup Finals.

It was truly a season to remember for the Rockford IceHogs, and we will begin to do so all offseason long on IceHogs.com. Stay tuned throughout the offseason for news and updates as the 2015-16 schedule begins to materialize, as the team moves toward free agency and every step in between. There will also be plenty of stories and features recapping the 2014-15 campaign, and taking a glimpse into what the future might hold for the IceHogs.

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By: Chicago Blackhawks
Photos by Todd Reicher
Chicago - The Chicago Blackhawks announced today they recalled forwards Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman and defensemen Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

Danault, 22, appeared in two games with Chicago this season, including his National Hockey League debut on Nov. 22 at Edmonton. He also recorded 38 points (13G, 25A) in 70 regular-season games and five points (3G, 2A) in eight postseason appearances with Rockford. Danault has tallied 66 points (19G, 47A) in 156 professional games with the Blackhawks and IceHogs. The Victoriaville, Quebec, native was one of Chicago’s first-round selections (26th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.

Hartman, 20, participated in five games with Chicago this season. He made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Feb. 13 vs. New Jersey, tallying three shots on goal and two hits. Hartman amassed 37 points (13G, 24A) in 69 regular-season contests and three points (2G, 1A) in eight postseason games with Rockford. He has notched 44 points (16G, 28A) through 83 career professional games with the Blackhawks and IceHogs. The West Dundee, Ill., native was Chicago’s first-round pick (30th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Pokka, 20, totaled 30 points (8G, 22A) in 68 games during his first professional season in North America with Rockford. He also tallied three assists in eight postseason contests for the IceHogs. Pokka was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team on April 8, 2015. He previously collected 42 points (12G, 30A) in 138 games over four seasons with Karpat in the SM-liiga. The Torino, Finland, native was acquired via trade from the New York Islanders on Oct. 4, 2014.

Svedberg, 23, recorded 14 points (3G, 11A) in 49 regular-season games in his second season with Rockford. His four assists in eight postseason appearances tied for the most among Rockford defensemen. Svedberg has totaled 23 points (5G, 18A) in 84 professional games in North America, all with the IceHogs. The Gothenburg, Sweden, native was signed as a free agent on Oct. 19, 2013.

WEEK 32 RECAP - ICEHOGS FALL TO GRAND RAPIDS IN FIVE GAMES

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By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Todd Reicher
The most successful season in Rockford’s AHL history comes to an end in the Western Conference Semifinals

Week 32 Recap: 
The most illustrious campaign in the Rockford IceHogs AHL era came to a close Sunday night as the Grand Rapids Griffins won Game 5 at the BMO Harris Bank Center, and with it the Western Conference Semifinal series. Upon returning to the Forest City the IceHogs cut the Griffins’ series lead to a 2-1 margin with a 4-1 Game 3 victory on Wednesday, before falling twice to round out the week. Grand Rapids used a quick overtime goal to grab Game 4 by a 2-1 score on Thursday night and held on to a 5-3 clinching victory in Sunday’s Game 5. The second-seeded Griffins now advance to the Western Conference Finals to take on the winner of the Utica Comets and Oklahoma City Barons.

Week 32 Results:                      
(Game 3) Wednesday, May 13: Grand Rapids 1 vs. Rockford 4   
(Game 4) Thursday, May 14: Grand Rapids 2 vs. Rockford 1 (OT)  
(Game 5) Sunday, May 17: Grand Rapids 5 vs. Rockford 3
Grand Rapids wins series 4-1                                    

Bacon Bits:
-In their first postseason appearance since 2010, the IceHogs fell in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Grand Rapids Griffins 4 games to 1

-Rockford finished the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs with a 4-4 record, bringing their all-time AHL playoff mark to 11-17

-Their berth in the second round of the playoffs matches the highest finish in IceHogs AHL playoff history (2008 West Division Finals vs. Chicago Wolves)

-Stephen Johns finished as Rockford’s leading scorer in the postseason, scoring three goals and four assists in eight games played

-With his seven points Johns broke team single playoff-season AHL records in both defenseman points and rookie points

-Johns, Spencer Abbott, Brandon Mashinter and Phillip Danault all finished tied for the IceHogs playoff goal-scoring lead with three markers

-Danault finished fourth in team scoring with five points (3g-2a), while posting a team-leading +8 rating

-16 out of the 21 different Rockford skaters who saw playoff action finished with at least a point

-Finishing the second round with a pair of losses at the BMO, the IceHogs finished the 2015 playoffs 2-2 on home ice, giving them an all-time AHL playoff record of 5-8 in Rockford

-In their Game 4 overtime loss to Grand Rapids, Rockford surrendered the game-winning goal to Tyler Bertuzzi at the :13 mark of the extra period, the fourth-fastest overtime goal in AHL history

-The goal was the fastest goal allowed to start a period in IceHogs AHL playoff history

-Rockford played in two overtime games at home in the playoffs; two games that lasted a cumulative 36 seconds

Hot Hog: Week 32
Brandon Mashinter    Left Wing (3 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, + 3) 

One of Rockford’s most experienced players finished the playoffs as one of the club’s best, asBrandon Mashinter played solid up front in what was the final week of the IceHogs season. Mashinter posted a +1 in Wednesday’s Game 3 while scoring a late goal and an assist in the decisive Game 5 loss on Sunday. Skating on Rockford’s top offensive unit for much of the playoffs alongside Spencer Abbott and Peter Regin, the Bradford, Ontario native finished tied for second in team playoff scoring with six points (3g-3a). The 26-year old winger is under contract for the 2015-16 season, signing a two-year extension with the Blackhawks last spring. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

ICEHOGS ATTEMPT TO BREAK EVEN IN GAME 4

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By: Brent Hollerud
Photo by Todd Reicher
Rockford looking to build steam from Wednesday’s victory over Grand Rapids

Rockford, Ill. - On Wednesday night the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs were able to get in the win column in their second round series with the Grand Rapids Griffins. On Thursday they have an opportunity to get back to even footing. 24 hours after their 4-1 Game 3 victory, the IceHogs square off against the Griffins in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals at BMO Harris Bank Center, set for a 7 p.m. face-off. Grand Rapids leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.

For the second-straight evening fans can grab an IceHogs Calder Cup Playoff rally towel, which are free for the first 2,500 fans courtesy of BMO Harris Bank. Great seats still remain for Thursday night’s game, and are available in person at the BMO Harris Bank Center box office, at any Ticketmaster location, by calling 815-968-5222 or by visiting IceHogs.com. Fans should bring tickets denoting “Home Game E” to gain admission to Game 4.

Once again the IceHogs invite all fans to the arena early to partake in the Pre-Game Block Party presented by Swedish American Hospital. Starting at 4 p.m., the area outside of the BMO box office will play home to food and drink vendors, bounce houses and more.

Those unable to attend Game 4 can catch the action locally on 23.2 Antenna TV, or on the Web at AHLLive.com. Television coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the IceHogs Warm Up Pre-Game Show. For live in-game updates, follow the IceHogs on Twitter (@goicehogs).

After falling into a 2-0 series deficit after the first two games in Grand Rapids, Rockford got the bounce-back performance it sorely needed in Wednesday’s Game 3 triumph. The IceHogs jumped out to an early two-goal lead and used a phenomenal outing from their special teams and two points from Stephen Johns to fight their way back into the series.

The rookie defenseman set up Ryan Hartman’s eventual game-winning goal late in the first period, and provided an insurance marker early in the third period, capping off his third multi-point effort in six playoff games. Johns sits atop the Rockford roster - and is tied for second among all league defenseman - in playoff scoring with seven points (3g-4a).

Hartman’s goal to give the IceHogs an early 2-0 lead came on the power play, after it was Rockford’s penalty kill that helped them grab the lead. Not only did the IceHogs shorthanded unit stave off an early major penalty by Cody Bass - they scored the game’s first goal thanks to a Mark McNeill breakaway tally. Rockford finished Game 3 7-for-8 on the penalty kill, while scoring once on three power play opportunities.

Goaltender Michael Leighton was back to his steady self, stopping 23 of 24 Griffins shots en route to picking up his fourth win of the playoffs, his second-straight on home ice. With Games 4 and 5 scheduled for Thursday and Sunday at the BMO, the IceHogs have a chance to use their strong play in the Forest City to turn the series on its head before it reverts back to Grand Rapids. Including the regular season, Rockford has an impressive 12-1-1-0 record over the last 14 games at the BMO.

Meanwhile, with the Game 3 loss, the Griffins drop to 0-3 away from Van Andel Arena in these playoffs. Where they have more than doubled up playoff opponents at home - outscoring them by a 23-11 margin, Grand Rapids has been outplayed on the road, giving up 5.3 goals per game while only scoring 2.3.

Still, even with their struggles outside of Michigan, a victory on Thursday night would put the Griffins one win away from their second trip to the Western Conference Finals in three years. They staged a brief push-back in the second period of Game 3, cutting Rockford’s lead to 2-1 with Teemu Pulkkinen’s sixth goal of the series and 12th of the playoffs. Pulkkinen has a two goal lead on Manchester’s Jordan Weal in the playoff scoring race, and has played in two fewer games as of Thursday morning.

Next Home Game: Thursday, May 14 - Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals vs. Grand Rapids Griffins. Face-off is at 4 p.m. The IceHogs and Griffins meet for Game 5 Sunday afternoon at the BMO. Once again fans can take part in a Pre-Game Block Party presented by Swedish American Hospital, beginning at 1 p.m. in the area outside of the box office.

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