We made it back to Rockford over the weekend to catch the Saturday night game. The first place IceHogs were hosting the last place Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Western Conference Midwest division is highly competitive this season. The IceHogs were 16-5-1-1, while the Griffins were 9-9-2-0. The five teams in the division were separated by a mere 14 points.
Making this game even more interesting is the NHL affiliations of the two teams. The IceHogs are the Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate, while the Griffins are the Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate. Even the mildest hockey fans knows of the rivalry between the Hawks and Wings.
Unfortunately, this was not a good night for the IceHogs. The Griffins won the game 4-0, but the game was more evenly played than the score would indicate.
The power plays seem to be the story of the game. The Griffins played tough when they were outnumbered, but the IceHogs did not do so well when the Griffins had the advantage. An empty net goal was the final score, as Coach Ted Dent pulled goalie Michael Leighton with about 3 minutes left, in hopes of sparking the IceHogs.
After the game, we talked to Coach Dent about the game and the next day's schedule. The IceHogs would go on to lose to Lake Erie in overtime. The IceHogs still hold a 6 game lead over the Chicago Wolves.
It is always tough talking to a coach after such a loss. What can I really ask and what can he really say? The team did not play exceptionally well. They missed some opportunities and they did not stay strong when defending the power play. Yet, there was Coach Det handling the questions from other media outlets and me. He waqs upbeat and classy. I have alot of respect for him.
This was only one loss. The IceHogs are still in first and there is much optimism for a great season.
I am excited to be back on the beat with the IceHogs. The games are always fun (although wins are more fun). The BMO Harris Bank Center was packed Saturday night. The fans were disappointed, of course, but they remained supportive and loud throughout.
Until my next game in Rockford, I will be following the IceHogs from Chicago. It won;t be long before I return though. I can;t wait.
My assistant was Chuck Gekas, who has now seen two IceHogs games and is quickly becoming a fan, too. There is always room for more on the IceHogs bandwagon!
Thank you to Coach Dent for his time and consideration. Thank you to the IceHogs organization for their hospitality.