The Rockford IceHogs have been one of the best teams in the AHL to start the season. They are leading the Midwest Division and are second in the Western Conference with a 10-2-0-1 (21 points) record. Of those three defeats, one comes from the very scenario we have here tonight. The Admirals beat the IceHogs 3-2 on the road in what was their home and season opener.
Since then, losing hasn’t exactly been the norm for Rockford. The only other regulation loss they’ve suffered came at the hands of the Rochester Americans on the road, 3-2. The other defeat was in a shootout, 1-0, on the road against the Toronto Marlies. Three losses. Two in regulation. Both by one-goal. And the shootout loss saw neither team score until the first shootout attempts.
These guys have been darn near unstoppable and are currently riding an eight-game winning streak. They’ve scored 45 goals, allowed 28 goals, and have the second best goal differential, +17, as a result. The team leading them in that category? Chicago Wolves at +20. …is our division frighteningly good this season or what?
It’s hard to not see the results being laid down by the IceHogs and not give credit instantly to their first line of defense. Scott Darling, last year’s great story here in Milwaukee, has been incredible for Rockford: 5 games, 5 wins, 1.52 goals against average, and a 0.948 save percentage. He was the man the Chicago Blackhawks called upon early in the season when Corey Crawford went down for a little bit. Darling’s numbers kept doing even at the NHL level for his first ever look top-side: 3 starts, 2 wins, 1.98 goals against average, and a 0.933 save percentage.
In addition to Darling the IceHogs also have themselves an experienced and savvy veteran in Michael Leighton. The 33-year old has appeared in 9 games this season, had 5 wins, 2.32 goals against average, 0.917 save percentage, and has been in net for all of Rockford’s defeats this season. He was also pulled from a game on 11/4/14 against the Lake Erie Monsters after he allowed 4 goals from 14 shots. Mind you, each of the goals allowed in that game came directly from the power-play. Regardless, Darling came on and shut the door for a four-goals scored comeback to pick up the win. Yes, it has been that good for them this season.
The latest transaction for the IceHogs saw them recall goaltender Mac Carruth from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. To the best of my knowledge – I don’t know of any injuries that have occurred to either Darling or Leighton. But, it’s rare that you see a team carrying three goaltenders without that being the case.
~Firing On All Cylinders~
The Admirals currently have three players that have 7 points or more on their roster: Brendan Leipsic, Austin Watson, and Viktor Arvidsson. The IceHogs have an absurd nine players with 7 or more points scored: Mark McNeill, Peter Regin, Phillip Danault, Joakim Nordstrom, Matt Carey, Garret Ross, T.J. Brennan, Teuvo Teravainen, and Kyle Cumiskey.
It’s not entirely one player. It’s not entirely one line. It has just been a consistent, night in and night out, effort from the IceHogs on how they generate offense. Only the Wolves (46) have scored more goals this season than the IceHogs (45). And, even then, we’re talking just one better.
~What Happened to the Insanity?~
So far this season? The IceHogs rank 27th in the entire league with only 12.8 penalty minutes per game: 167 PIM in total this season over 13 games. Not only have the IceHogs defense and offense been playing very well. They’re no longer playing like a pack of wild pillagers anymore.
What are your expectations for this weekend’s away-home two-in-two with the Rockford IceHogs? Can we expect a different Admirals team than the one we saw lose to the Iowa Wild on Wednesday? Should we anticipate a match-up of Magnus Hellberg against Scott Darling in net for both games this weekend? And should we expect to see some nastiness come out as it did against the Grand Rapids Griffins? What are your scoreline predictions for both games this weekend?