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The Rockford IceHogs have put the 2014-15 season in the rear view mirror. It was a memorable campaign for many reasons. Several rookies made impressive pro debuts, a couple of veteran skaters won the hearts of the Rockford fans and the Hogs made the second round of the playoffs.

This year’s version of the IceHogs made some memories…but this is the AHL. Things are gonna change, regardless of how warm and fuzzy the feelings are about this group.

Before we move on, let’s quickly recap the season that was for Rockford.

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The Rockford IceHogs have hit a postseason roadbump in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Rockford dropped the first two games of their Western Conference Semifinal in Grand Rapids last week.

Red Wings forward prospect Teemu Pulkkinen was the harvester of sorrow in Games 1 and 2, torching the Hogs for five goals and six points in the two Griffins victories. A strong Grand Rapids showing at home was not unexpected. However, the IceHogs have their work cut out for them as the series shifts to Winnebago County.

Here’s my take on the way the postseason is developing for the IceHogs as they look to hold serve at the BMO, starting with Game 3 Wednesday night.

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The Rockford IceHogs seem to be peaking at the perfect time of the season. Winners of eight of their last ten games, the Hogs have assured themselves of the team’s first trip to the AHL postseason in five years.

The IceHogs have avoided lengthy slumps that have doomed past campaigns. The worst stretch of hockey for Rockford came from November 28 to January 19, when the team was 8-9-4-1 in 22 games.

The Hogs tend to jell in the spring and this season has been no exception. What has been the difference is the team’s 15-4-0-1start. With 41 wins this season with seven games to play, the AHL franchise high water mark of 44 victories (set in 80-game seasons in 2007-08 and 2009-10) is certainly within reach.

You can point to a lot of factors that have gotten Rockford to this point. Here are some players who have provided a recent jump in the step of the IceHogs.

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If the Rockford IceHogs want to claim the AHL’s Midwest Division in 2014-15, the next two games on their schedule are vital. The IceHogs will have two shots at the team in front of them this week.

 

Rockford trails the Grand Rapids Griffins, who currently have 88 points, in the division race. The Hogs have 85 points, a game in hand on the Griffins and consecutive games against the division leaders.

 

The IceHogs are in Grand Rapids Wednesday and host the Griffins Friday night. Wins in both games would vault Rockford into first and could also pave the way for a run at the top seed in the AHL’s Western Conference.

 

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Recently, I noted that veteran center Peter Regin, drawing an NHL salary down with the Rockford IceHogs this season, could stand to raise his game in response to several offensive threats being called up to the Blackhawks. Regin has indeed increased his production in what has been a big run by the Hogs of late.

Regin’s seven-game point streak came to an end Sunday. Still, he has points in 11 of his last 13 games. He has three goals and eight assists in that span as Rockford went 9-3-1. This includes a four-game winning streak that has closed the gap on Grand Rapids in the AHL’s Midwest Division.

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The Rockford IceHogs ran their road record to 10-4-0-1 this week. The AHL’s Midwest Division leaders beat the Admirals in Milwaukee for the second time in six days Wednesday night. Rockford then split a pair of games at Lake Erie over the weekend.

Heading into another week of travel, Rockford is piling up points away from the BMO Harris Bank Center. One big factor in this road surge has been a dominating penalty kill. Come to think of it, it’s been pretty darn good at home as well.

In 2013-14, the Hogs were an absolute joke when shorthanded. They were dead last in the AHL in this department with a 72.3 success rate. Here are some numbers that show the dramatic change from a season ago:

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The Rockford IceHogs took a bit of a pounding this past week. Several Blackhawks prospects got banged up in a physical affair with the Iowa Wild on November 26. Rockford came out on top in that contest, then dropped a home-and-home with the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Despite the losses to their Midwest Division rival, Rockford did take three of a possible six points to stay on top of the AHL standings. They did, however, pay a price for those points.

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The Rockford IceHogs were left a bit shorthanded for last weekend’s action. Adam Clendening, Joakim Nordstrom and Phillip Danault are all traveling with the Blackhawks. Mark McNeill and Michael Leighton are recovering from injuries. It wasn’t a stretch for you to believe the Hogs might take some lumps with three Midwest Division games in three days.

In this case, you’d be wrong.

Rockford ran the table this weekend, winning home games with Iowa and Milwaukee at the BMO Friday and Saturday before shutting out the Wolves in Chicago Sunday afternoon. With 29 points through 19 games, Rockford (14-4-0-1) is currently on top of the AHL.

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The Rockford IceHogs are preparing to finish up their longest road jaunt of 2014-15. So far it has been a productive one with the Hogs taking five of six points in their first three games of the trip. Rockford bested Adirondack and Hamilton on Thursday and Saturday before losing a shootout to Toronto Sunday afternoon.