Rockford IceHogs: Big Win Over Milwaukee Ahead of Calder Cup Playoffs

The Rockford IceHogs closed out the regular season with a bang, topping the Milwaukee Admirals 7-1. Rockford now faces the Lake Erie Monsters in the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs (Photo: Todd Reicher)
The Rockford IceHogs closed out the regular season with a bang, topping the Milwaukee Admirals 7-1. Rockford now faces the Lake Erie Monsters in the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs (Photo: Todd Reicher) /

In what would best be described as a back alley beat-down, the Rockford IceHogs put a 7-1 whooping on the Milwaukee Admirals in the regular season finale for both clubs on Saturday night.

With the victory and a loss by the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Bakersfield Condors, the IceHogs will begin the Calder Cup Playoffs facing the Lake Erie Monsters.

IceHogs get much-needed boost ahead of Playoffs

With the Calder Cup Playoff matchups yet to be settled when the puck dropped, the IceHogs had much more to play for than the Admirals did, and it showed on the ice. Right from the first puck-drop, the IceHogs were putting pressure on Milwaukee.

A few good looks didn’t go Rockford’s way early on, but just five minutes into the game, Vinnie Hinostroza would make a great stick-handling play through the middle of the ice and put home the first goal on the night and give the IceHogs the early 1-0 lead. Hinostroza would get the assist seven minutes later on Jonathan Carlsson‘s first period goal, giving the IceHogs a 2-0 lead just passed the mid-way point of the first period.

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A few scuffles would ensue late in the first period and the IceHogs would capitalize on a power-play chance as Mark McNeill would redirect a Ville Pokka shot from the blue-line to make it a 3-0 game at the end of one period. Milwaukee was put on their heels early and often by the IceHogs and had trouble staying out of the penalty box the entire game.

A relatively quiet second period saw the IceHogs extend their lead to 4-0 after Chris DeSousa banged in a rebound off of a Tyler Motte shot, but not before former teammates Jimmy Oligny and Mike Liambas got into a heated scrap behind the Admirals net in the beginning half of the period. For Oligny, it was his second fight of the night which meant his game was over early with a game-misconduct.

The third period then picked up where the first period ended and the second failed to follow through. In other words, this is where it got out of hand. Just over three minutes into the period, Ryan Hartman would score the 5-0 goal on a redirected shot from Robin Norell. No sign of a goalie switch from Milwaukee at that point in the game, and 10 seconds later, the IceHogs would make it 6-0 on McNeill’s second goal of the game. 

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Mercifully for the Admirals, Max Gortz would score a power-play goal to salvage just a little bit of something from the game to make it 6-1 mid-way through the third period. But the IceHogs wouldn’t go quietly as Hinostroza would get his second goal of the game off of a rebound from a Pokka shot and make it a 7-1 game. That would be the final as the IceHogs outscored their final two opponents of the regular season by a combined total of 11-1 (Friday night, Rockford topped Grand Rapids 4-0).

Mac Carruth had both wins in the final weekend of the regular season for the IceHogs, making a combined 57 saves on 58 shots, and improving his record with the IceHogs this season to 6-5-2 with two shutouts.

Motte adjusting well with IceHogs

Buried beneath the monstrous 7-1 win on Saturday night for the IceHogs is the fact that recent addition, Tyler Motte, who just joined the Chicago Blackhawks organization after a very successful college career at Michigan, has produced five points (2 Goals, 3 Assists) in his first five professional hockey games.

“I’m just trying to play in any role that I’m put in.” Motte said following Saturday’s game. “These guys have really made it easy on me and helped me blend into the culture here.”

Motte has seen ample playing time, not just in the five-on-five situations, but also in the IceHogs’ special teams with the power-play and penalty-killing units over his first five games.

Calder Cup Playoffs: IceHogs-Monsters

With the victory over the Griffins on Friday night and the 7-1 win over the Admirals on Saturday, the IceHogs played their way up in the Calder Cup Playoff seeding from the fourth-place team in the Central division, to third-place in the division. Had they lost either of their final two games, chances were the IceHogs would have stayed in the fourth-place spot and face the Milwaukee Admirals in the Calder Cup Playoffs opening round.

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Instead, Rockford will be facing the Lake Erie Monsters in the first round, and while they are the ‘road team’ in the series, the IceHogs will host the first two games of the best-of-five round on April 20-21. Lake Erie, having home-ice advantage will host the remaining three games of the series, if it goes that far. So oddly enough, there could be a situation where the Monsters are considered the ‘home team’ in the series, yet play fewer home games.

The AHL is funny like that.

Head-to-head this season, the IceHogs and Monsters played each other eight times with Rockford having the season advantage with a record of 4-3-1 against Lake Erie. All four of those wins, by the way, came at home for the IceHogs.

Game one for IceHogs-Monsters is set for a 7 p.m. puck drop on Wednesday, April 20, at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.

Notes and Quotes

  • With a three-point night, Vinnie Hinostroza finishes the regular season as the only IceHogs player to top the 50-point mark and set the new rookie points record for the IceHogs by surpassing Adam Clendening‘s 46 points in 2012-13.
  • With a two-goal night, Mark McNeill topped the 25-goal mark for the first time in his professional career and surpassed last year’s goal total of 23 goals.
  • Robin Norell played in his eighth game of the year with the IceHogs Saturday night, notching his first and second career AHL points in the 7-1 win over Milwaukee with a two-assist night.

On Mac Carruth’s play over the weekend…

  • “He has been a wall for us as of late. He is a guy who works really hard to give us a chance to win every night and that’s great to have.” – Mark McNeill
  • “Being even-keel for him is when he plays his best. He has been that at the end of the season, and has kept us in a lot of game and made some huge saves. We’re happy to have him.” – Vinnie Hinostroza

Feeling heading into the Playoffs after a big final weekend…

  • “It’s important to go into the post-season with a good feeling and to have two wins this weekend, I think the guys are feeling good right now and are looking forward to our next task.” – Mark McNeill
  • ” I’m looking forward to the pace. I think the guys in the room, with the momentum we have right now, will be excited for it. The first two games at home will help us get involved early on and we are just looking forward to the challenge.” – Tyler Motte

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