photo courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs
The Rockford IceHogs find themselves atop the Midwest Division after an impressive weekend in North Carolina.
The IceHogs have looked to have shaken off any affects of their slow October start. They have won their last 3 games and 6 of their last 7 to take over first place in the AHL's Midwest Division. Rockford put together back to back 3 goal road wins over a good Charlotte Checkers team on Saturday and Sunday to grab the top spot. They are now just 1 point behind the Checkers for 2nd place in the Western Conference standings.
Saturday night's game did not start off promising as they fell behind 2-0 to Charlotte and trailed going into the 2nd period. The Hogs exploded for 4 goals in the middle frame and took control of the contest. Captain Martin St. Pierre started the scoring with his 6th goal of the year and added his 7th to close out the 2nd period. Brandon Saad's 5th goal and Ben Smith's 8th of the year were sandwiched in between the two St. Pierre tallies. The Hogs added a 5th goal in the 3rd period when Jeremy Morin scored his 9th on the power play midway through the 3rd period. Jimmy Hayes and the red hot Adam Clendening each had a pair of assists. The other Hogs who picked up assists in the 5-2 win were Smith, Morin, Barndon Pirri, Marcus Kruger and Brett Lebda.
Rockford was able to jump out to the 1st period lead and make it stick for the rematch yesterday afternoon. Adam Clendening scored his 4th goal of the year, a power play goal to start the scoring for the Hogs. Kyle Beach added his 7th of the season just a few minutes later to give Rockford a 2-0 after 20 minutes. Charlotte cut the lead in half at the 7:23 mark of the 3rd when Brett Sutter got the puck past Carter Hutton. Brandon Pirri's 7th goal of the year gave the IceHogs some insurance and then St. Pierre's 3rd goal of the weekend, and empty netter, iced the 4-1 win. Nick Leddy, Kruger, Lebda, Andrew Shaw, Smith, Shawn Lalonde and Brandon Bollig all had assists on Sunday.
Carter Hutton stopped 64 of 67 shots he faced to pick up his 7th and 8th win of the year. Inconsistency between the pipes has plagued the IceHogs so far this season. Ted Dent, and the rest of the coaching staff, is waiting on either Hutton or Alec Richards to grab control of the #1 goalies spot. The IceHogs only had 7 minor penalties over the weekend which is a huge improvement. They were able to kill off 6 of the 7 Charlotte power play chances. If the Hogs are going to hold on to 1st place in the division, and be serious contender in the Western Conference, they need better goalie play, more disciple and a better divisional record. They got the first two of those over the weekend and maybe the big over the Chicago Wolves last Wednesday will get the Hogs rolling within the Midwest Division.
The IceHogs are off until Friday when they start a big weekend against divisional foes. Rockford will host the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and the Wolves on Saturday before capping off the busy weekend with a road game at the Grand Rapid Griffins on Sunday.