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The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, continue to play impressive hockey as we approach the holidays. The IceHogs completed a sweep of their four-game trip to Texas and split a weekend set with Iowa and Grand Rapids.

Rockford is on top of the Central Division standings with a 17-6-1-2 record. A loss to the Griffins Saturday put an end to a five-game winning streak, the longest of the season for the Hogs. Playing a big part in the success this team is veteran center Jake Dowell.

Relax, folks; Dowell is only on an AHL deal signed with the IceHogs this fall. He can’t be called up to the Hawks for you to disparage. This is not a plea for Stan Bowman to sign Dowell to NHL ink. Just know that the guy has been a key component of Rockford’s lofty position in the standings.

This weekend, the guy just got some terrific news to boot.

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The Rockford IceHogs opened this past week with a tough stretch of games in Texas ahead of them. With three of those four contests in the books, a four-game Lone Star sweep is within the reach of the IceHogs.

In what may be its most impressive stretch of the season, Rockford posted 15 goals in three victories. After winning a track meet against the Texas Stars Wednesday, the Hogs scored two wins over the San Antonio Rampage over the weekend. Rockford improved its season mark to 15-5-1-2 and sit at the top of the Central Division.

With several of last year’s leading scorers on the shelf, Rockford looked to be in need of some offensive punch against some good offensive teams.

Who provided a good portion of that punch? The above picture should spill the beans.

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The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, have yet to drop a game to Central Division rival Iowa this season. The Hogs ran their record against the Wild to 5-0 this season with a sweep in DesMoines this weekend.

Rockford is 9-3-1-1 and in second place in the Central Division. There is a lot of credit to go around for what is now a ten-game points streak. Dennis Rasmussen and Bryan Bickell (see after the jump) both had a pair of goals over the weekend. Mark McNeill is on a five game point streak and Ville Pokka has six points in his last four games.

However, not all of the IceHogs are off to a hot start.

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The Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, opened their season on the road in a couple of unfamiliar places. The AHL now has five teams playing in California; Rockford visited two of those clubs over the weekend.

It certainly was an up and down opening trip. The Hogs scored a solid 4-2 victory over the San Jose Barracuda before suffering a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Stockton Heat. Along the way, we saw what could be some running themes with the 2015-16 IceHogs. We were also treated to an unexpected roster move Friday night.

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The Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, are breaking camp and winging it to the West Coast to begin the 2015-16 campaign. Rockford is coming off of a strong season that saw them reach the Western Conference Semifinal.

Coach Ted Dent is back at the helm of another group of Hawks prospects peppered with skaters who’ve been around the AHL block. How’s this group gonna fare over the next seven or eight months? Let’s take a look…

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While us fans are still going to bask in the glow of Monday’s victory and Thursday’s parade (or in my case, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s Kyle Schwarber performance), this week is when the Hawks front office has to start to pivot toward next year, and namely to the point clearing out cap space to get Saad, Kruger, and whoever else they might like into the fold so we can attempt to do this all again in a year’s time.

Watching this unfold, I have to say I’ve been impressed with the local media’s reserved, optimistic tone about what the Hawks can do next year while the national — both here and north of the 49th — have been forecasting doom and gloom and it’s 2011 all over again! As it’s our job to piss on national and local narratives alike, let me poke some holes in this latter view, if you don’t mind.

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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 got their quest for the 2015 Calder Cup off to a bang-beat, bell-ringing start down in Texas over the weekend. The Hogs took the first two games of their AHL Western Conference Quarterfinal from the Stars in games on Friday and Saturday.

As a result, I’ll be heading to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night to watch the IceHogs try and wrap up the best-of-five series. Now…who’s coming with me?

Well…maybe not as many as management would like. I’m sure the Rockford brass isn’t completely happy with the league schedule makers.

Texas, who averaged just over 5,000 fans this season in their building in Cedar Park, drew 4,375 Friday and 4,978 Saturday. The IceHogs, who set an attendance record this season by packing an average of 4,834 into the BMO and have “home ice” in the series, get to host a weeknight game. The challenge for the Rockford area is clear; can they fill the house without dollar hot dogs?

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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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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.