Rockford IceHogs: After Slow Start, Three Straight Wins

Jan 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Mark McNeill (41) watches the play against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Mark McNeill (41) watches the play against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The Rockford IceHogs got off to a slow start this season, but things are looking better of late

While the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t get off to the fast start to the season that all fans would hope for, their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs got off to, well, the same kind of start.

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Both the NHL and AHL teams in the Blackhawks organization started the 2016-17 season with back-to-back losses as the Blackhawks fell to the Blues and Predators, while the IceHogs dropped two games to the defending Calder Cup Champion Cleveland Monsters. (What’s with Cleveland lately, eh?)

But following the slow start, both the IceHogs and Blackhawks have bounced back to get their seasons back on track.

For Rockford, the bounce back has been in the fashion of a three-game winning streak. Over the weekend, while many were focused on the Chicago Cubs advancing to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, the IceHogs topped the Grand Rapids Griffins, Milwaukee Admirals and those same Cleveland Monsters to improve to 3-2-0 in the first five games of the AHL season.

Going streaking

Heading into their third road game to start the season, the IceHogs faced the Griffins to begin a three-games-in-three-days stretch.

The scoring was opened by returning IceHog Spencer Abbott. Abbott spent time with the IceHogs during the 2014-15 season before playing last season in the SHL with Frolunda HC. Abbott’s first goal of the season gave the IceHogs the 1-0 lead in the second period and was followed up by an unassisted goal from Martin Lundberg, also his first goal of the season.

Lundberg is an offseason signing by the Blackhawks organization after playing the previous eight years in the SHL with Skelleftea AIK.

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The Griffins would get one back, but it wouldn’t be enough as the IceHogs held on to a 2-1 win for their first ‘W’ of the year. Lars Johansson would get the win, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced.

Another victory

After getting the first win of the season, the IceHogs were home in Rockford for opening night at the BMO Harris Bank Center to take on the Milwaukee Admirals.

The middle game of three in three nights was tightly contested as the IceHogs and Admirals traded four goals back-and-forth in the second period. Mark McNeill and Carl Dahlstrom would get the IceHogs out to a 2-0 lead with both of their first goals of the season.

The lead wouldn’t last long as the Admirals would get goals from Felix Girard and Matt White to tie the game and eventually send it to overtime and then the shootout.

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In the shootout, McNeill and Abbott would score while Johansson shut down both Milwaukee shooters and the IceHogs would get the 3-2 shootout win. Johansson would stop 32 of 34 shots, leading the IceHogs to their second win of the season.

Let’s make it three

To close out the weekend, the IceHogs would host the defending Calder Cup Champion Cleveland Monsters, and the game wouldn’t be as close as the previous two meeting between the teams.

The IceHogs were all over Cleveland, out-shooting the Monsters 35-29 in the game and taking advantage on two of the seven powerplays that Rockford earned.

The scoring was opened in the first period by Kyle Baun getting his first of the year and followed by Lundberg with his second of the year. Abbott would make it 3-0 lead in the second, but the Monsters would pull within one as Aaron Palushaj and Daniel Zaar tallied goals to make it 3-2 heading into the third.

From there, the IceHogs would control the rest of the game. Brandon Mashinter would get his first goal of the year midway through the period and Dahlstrom would get his second of the season on an empty-net goal to seal the 5-2 win and the third victory in a row for Rockford. Mac Carruth would get his first win of the year in net, stopping 27 of the 29 Monsters shots he faced.

What’s next for the IceHogs?

Hoping to continue the momentum and winning streak into the next handful of games, the IceHogs close October with another three-games-in-three-nights stretch.

They start by hosting the Chicago Wolves for the first time this season. The middle game of the weekend sees Rockford head east to face the Wolves in Chicago for the second of the home-and-home series. Finally, to close the weekend, the IceHogs host the Milwaukee Admirals for a late Sunday afternoon contest.

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The IceHogs currently sit third in the Central Division with six points through five games and are led in scoring by Dahlstrom, Tanner Kero and Viktor Svedberg who all have three points through the first five games.