On October 18th at home against Texas, the Rockford IceHogs got blown out 7-2 at home. They looked out of sync and completely lost. There were fumbles, bumbles and such with every aspect of the game. I saw it first hand. However, since that awful Sunday, they have gone 6-0-1. Their record overall before Saturday night’s tilt versus Milwaukee now stands at 7-3-1. Overall, the IceHogs have outscored their opponents 22-10 during this winning streak.
Also during this run, the goalie tandem of Michael Leighton and Mark Visentin have been solid. Each has posted a shut out, and Leighton has given up only 10 goals in six games and Visentin zero in his only start. In fact, congratulations are in order for Leighton, who notched his 199th career AHL victory Friday night over Grand Rapids.
Made even more remarkable: the IceHogs streak has been accomplished while having their top players moved back and forth from the Blackhawks. Namely Marko Dano, Tanner Kero, Ryan Hartman (now returned) and Erik Gustaffson. I call it the I-90 shuffle because when a player goes to or from Rockford to the Blackhawks, they drive Interstate 90 straight away. Oh, and the IceHogs have welcomed back Bryan Bickell via demotion from the Blackhawks, promptly inserting him in the line-up. Of course he scored a goal.
I don’t personally believe that AHL teams, their coaches and even players get enough credit for how well they compete and keep things running given the chaos caused by their NHL parent club. Think about it. In one week’s time the IceHogs lost their top players on both offense and defense, yet kept on winning. They also had to call up and incorporate players from their support team (Indy Fuel) as well as one very experienced NHLer in Bickell. This isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t glamorous. That is what makes this winning streak all the more remarkable. It also bodes well for the future Blackhawks teams given how well the kids are playing.
I have said this before and I will say it again. If you can get to an AHL game, go. Go see how hockey is played away from the bright lights, where the scoreboards are still stuck in the 1980’s and beer/hotdogs are way more affordable (at least in Rockford). Also go because for $20-$25 you can sit on the glass and watch the future NHL all-stars and grinders play the game with energy and passion. Most importantly, go to a Rockford IceHogs game and watch the guys do their thing. Afterall, they are smokin’ hot right now!!