As we all know, the Rockford IceHogs are evil incarnate. They are in your face, tooth and nail, nasty. Last season the IceHogs averaged 22.6 penalty minutes per game for a league leading 1716 penalty minutes. The year before that? They had the second most penalty minutes in the AHL with 1391. The IceHogs are fierce, physical, and are a team that have scrapped it out with much success against the Admirals in recent years. The season series last year went to the IceHogs who went 7-4-1-0 in 12 meetings against the Ads. The year prior was even worse: the IceHogs won 10 of 12 contests.
Rockford will enter tonight’s game in Milwaukee with the best record in the Western Conference, 7-3-1-0 (15 pts). They have played a league high 11 games, though. Including a 5-3 loss in Rockford last night against the Charlotte Checkers. That game saw the IceHogs post 30 penalty minutes with ex-Admiral Brad Winchester taking center stage. He received a 5 minute major for interference and a 10 minute game misconduct to boot. No footage of that incident online yet (please link to that if you find it), but it does tell me enough about the IceHogs entering this first match against the Ads this season. They are entering that little bit tired off of a tough game against the Checkers. They are also entering with a chip on their shoulder. …so, IceHogs, Ads, chippy affair, what else is new?
To me, the standout player for the IceHogs has been Antti Raanta between the pipes. This is the Fin’s first professional season State-side after spending 5 years in the Finnish Elite League. Raanta has enjoyed the majority of time in net over Kent Simpson through 11 games. He has a .920 SV% to go with 5 wins in 8 starts (including 2 wins in the shootout). In the pre-season contest between the Ads and IceHogs, it was the Raanta and Hellberg show as they matched each other save for save right up until the last shootout attempt in the tenth round of the shootout. Small sample size, but Raanta really impressed me with his play in net. He wasn’t fooled by anything the Ads threw at him in that game. The only two pucks to get past him in the game came from a Roussel shorthander and a Tousignant shootout attempt. With the Ads desperately looking for a fast start to a game they must challenge Raanta early and often if they’re going to hit the net.
Your thoughts on tonight’s game? Will the Ads point streak to start the season continue? Who do you see on the score sheet for the Ads and can we expect more than one fight tonight?