Happy Foreigner Concert Night, everyone. Remember last season when they were forced to cancel due to the lead singer getting ill prior to showtime? Yeah. That was a fun few hours prior to the gates opening in the BMO Harris Bradley Center as the stage went from being built for sound check and then torn down all while fans weren’t completely aware until shortly before arriving. Hopefully -fingers crossed- all goes well and there is a great game and concert tonight.
As for the hockey side of this story there is a guarantee. There will be a game. And it should be a good one. I’m probably in the minority when I say this but I feel like the Rockford IceHogs are the biggest rivals to the Milwaukee Admirals. Whether it dates back to the bench clearing brawl or so many physically demanding games after – these two always lock up hard and make for an exciting watch. What do the 2015-16 IceHogs have to offer this season? Let’s take a look.
The IceHogs enter tonight’s game with a record of 3-3-0-0 (6 points) from their first six-games. They played last night at home against the Chicago Wolves and won by a 4-3 shootout. As I said, the IceHogs have played six-games this season. The Admirals have only played three-games so far. Take that, and the fact that Rockford played last night, and expect for the visitors to be the ones coming out with speed and precision early tonight. The slight bit of good news could be that due to last night’s game going the distance and through overtime: the longer the game gets the slower the IceHogs might play. It’d be smart for the Admirals to spend the early part of this game grinding down the IceHogs on the boards to wear them out by game’s end.
When looking at the roster – all the names you know and probably don’t love are all still there. Many high level offensive pieces from previous installments of this rivalry remain as well as some new additions. Jeremy Morin is still there. Mark McNeill is still there. Garret Ross, Brandon Mashinter, Dennis Rasmussen, Ryan Hartman, Phillip Danault, Pierre-Cédric Labrie, and Ville Pokka are all back. In total, 33 points of 75 points worth of offense produced by the IceHogs against the Admirals last season is back.
New to the mix or up full-time for this season are: Daniel Paille, Jake Dowell, Mike Liambas, Chris DeSousa, Kyle Baun, Tanner Kero, Ryan Haggerty, and Marko Dano. It’s a really great blend of veteran leadership and young skilled skaters. I particularily like the addition of a player such as Dowell for the leadership qualities he has always brought to the teams he has played for. And it leaves me saying, “As if having 34-year old goaltender Michael Leighton back isn’t enough of a calming effect for a locker room.”
Out of the new names I would specifically like to point out Mr. Kero as one to watch. He already has 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 6 games this season which leads the IceHogs in scoring. He also is tied for the team lead with Morin for shots on goal with 15. This is his first full-season of pro hockey since finishing up his collegiate career at Michigan Tech. He got any sort of those early bird jitters out of his system by playing 6 games with the IceHogs at the end of last season and 6 games in their playoff run. He’s taken that brief experience and entered this season hot offensively. Keep tabs on #10 in red tonight.
Then we have the story of Liambas playing against the Admirals for the first time in his career tonight. I suspect fans will give him a respectful cheer for the first mention or shift or two but, with game time, it will turn to groans. You love players like Liambas when they’re on your team. You hate playing against them. Luckily, I think any sort of tensions should be mute because there is such a good bond between Liambas and the Admirals. Friendships might go out the window when the first puck drops but I’d be surprised if Liambas actually ended up in a fight with a former teammate tonight.
Expectations for tonight’s game? Will the re-introduction of Viktor Arvidsson to the Milwaukee Admirals offense be a big boost? If the Admirals hit a wall and lose big again tonight after their comeback win in Iowa – are they right back into panic mode?