The IceHogs have had an up and down start to the 2012-2013 season and are looking forward to a better start in the new year. The Hogs will enter the 2013 portion of their schedule with a 17-14-1-1. Their 36 points has them in 2nd place in the Midwest Division, 2 points behind the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Milwaukee Admirals are in 3rd place with 33 points and the Peoria Rivermen and Chicago Wolves round out a tight division with 32 points each. Right now the Hogs are in 8th place in the Western Conference, but they are only 3 points out of 4th place. The Western Conference playoff race should remain pretty tight so avoiding long losing streaks will be key in getting Rockford back into the playoffs.
The Hogs started the season with a 4 game losing streak but followed it with a 4 game winning streak. They had a second 4 game winning streak by winning the last game of November and the first 3 of December. The IceHogs are 10-7 at the BMO Harris Bank Center this season and they 7-7-1-1 away from Rockford. They are 1-1 in games decided in overtime and 2-1 in shootouts. The Hogs will need to improve on their 7-10-1-1 record within the Midwest Division if they want to return to the Calder Cup playoffs for first time since 2010.
Martin St Pierre's 30 points (14 G, 16 A) leads the team and is 10th in the AHL in scoring. His 14 goals lead the team and his 16 assists is second most for Rockford. The IceHogs have three other players with double digit goals; Ben Smith with 13 and Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri both with 10. Rookie defenceman Adam Clendening leads the team with 18 assists and has been a pleasant offensive surprise after a slow start. Smith and Morin are tied for the team lead in power plays goals with 5 apiece. Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw each have 4 power play goals. The IceHogs have scored 4 shorthanded goals, 1 each by St. Pierre, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Saad and Peter Leblanc.
Rockford has been hit with an eye popping 783 penalty minutes so far this year. Kings of the meatheads, Brandon Bollig and Kyle Beach, lead the team with 137 and 109 PIM respectively. Penalties have killed the Hogs and is a major problem this year. They need to play a more disciplined game if they want to make it to the post season and make any noise if they get there. Bad penalties will kill any chance of a long playoff run. I hope I am not the only one concerned that the Blackhawks pipeline to the future is full of turds with rocks for brains. Hopefully Ted Dent and his staff can make improvements to the team's discipline in the new year.
Carter Hutton has had a busy start to the 2012-2013 season. Hutton has played in 27 of the Hogs 33 games. He has a record of 13-12-1-1 with a 2.72 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Backup Alec Richards has appeared in 9 games this year. He currently has a record of 4-3-0-0 with a 3.13 goals against average and a .887 save percentage.
Things will get interesting in Rockford if the NHL's lockout finally comes to end here in the next few days. The IceHogs will lose a few key players like Nick Leddy, Shaw, and Kruger from the start. Guys like Smith, Hayes, Pirri, Morin and Saad could all see time in Chicago when the NHL returns.