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Pigs In Zen: Mo’ Goals, Mo’ Wins, Mo’ Points

The IceHogs continued their playoff push in week 23 of the AHL schedule as they faced Midwest Division teams for three consecutive nights over the weekend. They started and ended the weekend with the Chicago Wolves and a contest against the Peoria Rivermen was in the middle of that.

On Friday, March 15th, the IceHogs welcomed the Wolves into the BMO Harris Bank Center. The score was tied late into the third period, courtesy of Terry Broadhurst, Jeremy Morin, and Brad Mills. The tie was broken at 17:24 of the third when Brandon Pirri fed Morin on a two-on-one shorthanded rush and Morin tapped the puck across the goal line for his 24th marker of the year. The tally held as the game winner and the Hogs took the contest 4-3.

The next night, March 16th, the Hogs welcomed goaltender Mike McKenna and the Peoria Rivermen into the BMO, The Hogs laid an egg in that tilt, as they dropped the game 4-0.

The following afternoon, the Hogs made the trip down I-90 to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont to take on the Wolves again. Martin St. Pierre picked up a power play goal with 0.7 seconds to go in the first period to get the Hogs on the board first. Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton tied the game in the second, but Jeremy Morin continued to rack up the points as he scored a power play goal later in the period to give the Hogs a 2-1 lead, which they would never relinquish.

The talk of Sunday’s game wasn’t the fact that the Hogs won though. It was this brawl at the bench. Take a look at the video if you haven’t seen it already. Also, read the boxscore because it’s crazy fun at the end to read…

But wait, there’s more! The AHL handed suspensions down on Tuesday afternoon and the Hogs were hit the hardest, even though Chicago should’ve been considering they had two guys leave their bench and Jim Vandermeer was fighting on the IceHogs bench, but whatever…

Jeremy Morin, Wade Brookbank and Shawn Lalonde were all suspended for one game due to their actions in the brawl. The Wolves only had Adam Polasek get suspended for three games.

The Hogs aren’t only going to be missing those three guys in their next game though. They’ll be missing forward Kenndal McArdle, who was suspended for two games after Saturday’s game against Peoria; McArdle served the first game of his suspension on Sunday.

Observations

-We’ll start with Jeremy Morin this week because he’s been absolutely on fire offensively. If you’ve been reading my updates every week, Morin’s been consistently doing the same things I’ve mentioned before:  getting to the net, using his speed, vision and shot effectively, killing penalties, etc. Seriously. The kid’s been great. The Hogs have really leaned on him during this push to the playoffs and they will continue to do so. He’ll be missed the most out of all the guys that are suspended; hopefully the Hogs can pull through without him for one game.

Steve Montador made his IceHogs debut on Friday night and also played on Saturday night. Considering he hasn’t played in, what, almost a year or so, he didn’t look too shabby out there. He was kind of hesitant in regards to physical play and going into the corners–but who can really blame him? He was used on the power play with Terry Broadhurst, Martin St. Pierre, Kyle Beach and Adam Clendening. His defense seemed to be solid, which was good to see.

Shawn Lalonde played very well defensively all weekend. He really stood out on Sunday afternoon as he broke up a couple of prime scoring chances and Chicago rushes into the Rockford zone. Joe Lavin and Adam Clendening also played good D as well.

Ben Smith may not be putting up goals at the rate that he was earlier in the year, but he’s still trucking along and playing his game. Most noticeably, he’s providing a consistent net-front presence–despite his lack of height. He’s been there to cause havoc, which creates scoring chances for Rockford. A prime example of that would be Jeremy Morin’s second period tally on Sunday afternoon. Morin grabbed a Brandon Pirri rebound that deflected off of Smith, who was parked in front of Matt Climie, and Morin was able to put it home.

The line of David Gilbert — Byron Froese — Kyle Beach was only together for Saturday night’s game, but they played very well together. They generated some pretty good scoring chances and gave the Hogs some points of momentum. Froese was very solid defensively in his first three games in a Rockford sweater in 2012-13 this weekend. He was used on the penalty kill a lot.

Dylan Olsen was very physical all weekend, especially on Saturday. He had three big hits in the first period alone. The physical aspect of the game is a big part of how Olsen plays and to see him get back to banging bodies is a good sign for Rockford and for his development. His hits were smart hits, too, and many of them resulted in breaking up a Peoria rush into the Rockford zone and cutting a Riverman’s time and space down to virtually zero.

-These observations seem to be centered on defense this week, so here’s a shoutout to Mathieu Beaudoin, who also played well in the defensive zone. He had a very active stick that broke up some good scoring chances for the opponents.

Henrik Karlsson was in net for both games against the Wolves and Carter Hutton was in net for the game against Peoria.

News

-The IceHogs currently have a record of 32-28-1-1 (66 points). They are tied for third in the Midwest Division with the Milwaukee Admirals; the Ads hold the spot since they have two games in-hand. In the Western Conference standings, the Hogs are tied for 10th with Milwaukee. They are 1 point out of 8th place, which is held by the Abbotsford Heat. The Heat are tied with the Chicago Wolves for 7th place with 67 points and the Oklahoma City Barons have joined that party. They sit in 9th with 67 points as well. **This is before all of Tuesday’s games and Wednesday’s games had gone final.

-Check out the story by Fritz Stillings on Jeremy Morin from icehogs.com.

-Also, listen to Brad Mills’ interview on the Stone and Double T show on WXRX in Rockford from Tuesday morning.

Blackhawks prospect and centerman Joakim Nordstrom was reassigned by the Blackhawks to the IceHogs from AIK of the Swedish Elite League on Saturday.

What’s Next For Rockford?

Friday, March 22 at Abbotsford at 9:00 p.m. CDT

Saturday, March 23 at Abbotsford at 9:00 p.m. CDT

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