Calder Cup Playoffs: IceHogs-Monsters Series Preview
By Mario Tirabassi
While the Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of their Stanley Cup Playoff series with the St. Louis Blues, their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs are about to begin their own ‘Quest for the Cup.’ The Calder Cup, that is.
After a second straight season qualifying for the Calder Cup Playoffs, the IceHogs are met with the challenge of facing the Lake Erie Monsters in a best-of-five, first-round series.
Tale of the Tape: Rockford IceHogs
- NHL affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks
- Regular-season record: 40-22-10-4 (94 pts, .618 points percentage)
- Standings: Central Division – 3rd place / Western Conference – 4th place
- Goals for: 214
- Goals against: 205
Tale of the Tape: Lake Erie Monsters
Goals against: 188
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Check it out: IceHogs blast Admirals in regular-season finale
Regular Season Matchups
- Nov 22, 2015 – Lake Erie (1) at Rockford (3)
- Jan 18, 2016 – Lake Erie (1) at Rockford (3)
- Feb 26, 2016 – Rockford (4) at Lake Erie (5)
- Feb 27, 2016 – Rockford (2) at Lake Erie (3) – OT
- Mar 5, 2016 – Lake Erie (0) at Rockford (5)
- Mar 6, 2016 – Lake Erie (1) at Rockford (2)
- Mar 24, 2016 – Rockford (2) at Lake Erie (4)
- Mar 25, 2016 – Rockford (1) at Lake Erie (5)
Overall, the IceHogs finished 4-3-1 against the Monsters this season. All eight games were won by the home team in the regular season. That is important to note for this series because of the so-called ‘Home-Ice’ advantage. More on that later.
Who To Watch: IceHogs
- Vinnie Hinostroza – The IceHogs leading scorer this season, Hinostroza has been an offensive force for Rockford in his rookie season at he professional level. Setting a rookie scoring record for the IceHogs with 51 points this year, Hinostroza factors to be a thorn in the side of the Monsters defense for the entirety of the series.
- Tyler Motte – Another rookie for the IceHogs making a big impact in his first pro experience, but in a different way than Hinostroza. Motte has only been with the IceHogs for the last five games of the regular season, but has been able to tally five points in those games and has seen significant time as a part of the top-forward lines, as well as the power-play and penalty killing teams. Motte looks to be another offensive spark for the IceHogs, who finished fourth in the Western Conference in scoring.
- Mac Carruth – The goaltending situation in Rockford was as locked up as could be in early March, but an injury to Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and Michael Leighton, who had made 46 appearances for the IceHogs this season, was gone to the NHL and hasn’t returned. The IceHogs needed to find out who their starter in net was going to be. Carruth, along with trade-deadline acquisition Drew MacIntyre, traded starts and neither player stood-out from the other until the final weekend of the season. Carruth would get the last two stars of the regular season and allowed just one goal on 58 total shots in wins over the Grand Rapids Griffins (4-0) and Milwaukee Admirals (7-1). If Carruth can continue his current stretch of play, the Monsters will have difficulty putting up points on the IceHogs.
Who To Watch: Monsters
- T.J. Tynan – A former teammate of Hinostroza’s at the University of Notre Dame and Illinois native, Tynan led the Monsters in scoring this season with 46 points. Playing the role of set-up man, Tynan uses his smaller size to his advantage and relies on his speed to make a difference.
- Sonny Milano – Another rookie to watch is the Blue Jackets 2014 First-Round pick, Sonny Milano. In his first full season at the professional level, Milano was able to rack up 31 points in 54 games with the Monsters, as well as making his NHL debut and recording his first NHL point earlier this month. Milano has great speed, like Tynan, and could give the IceHogs defense trouble in space.
- Joonas Korpisalo – After making his NHL debut this season, and playing almost twice as many games at the NHL level than he did at the AHL level, Korpisalo looks to be the starter for the Monsters in Game One. The interesting note to that, though, is that Anton Forsberg has a case to make to be the Monsters number one option as well. Korpisalo (8-8-2, 2.36 GAA, 0.913 Save Percentage) has been O.K. while at the AHL level, but Forsberg (23-10-5, 2.40 GAA, 0.914 Save Percentage) has the experience with Lake Erie on his side. Korpisalo has been named the starter for Game One, but a poor performance may see a quick change in the Monsters net.
- Game 1: Wednesday, April 20th, @ Rockford – 7 p.m. CDT
- Game 2: Thursday, April 21st, @ Rockford – 7 p.m. CDT
- Game 3: Saturday, April 23rd, @ Lake Erie – 6 p.m. CDT
- Game 4 (if necessary): Monday, April 25th, @ Lake Erie, – 6 p.m. CDT
- Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, April 28th, @ Lake Erie – 6 p.m. CDT
It’s an oddity that the team with ‘Home-Ice’ advantage in the series will start on the road, but the IceHogs will get Games One and Two to begin the round. Lake Erie could possibly only get one home game if the IceHogs were to sweep the best-of-five. But hey, that’s the AHL sometimes.
Puck drop for Game One is at 7 p.m. in Rockford on Wednesday night.
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