The Chicago Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford began their exhibition schedule this week. With the NHL cancelling games through October 24 and the threat of more lost games on the horizon, Chicago's top prospects will be taking center stage with the IceHogs.
Rockford has split their first two preseason contests. After losing 6-1 to the Chicago Wolves Wednesday, the IceHogs scored a 3-2 shootout victory over Milwaukee Thursday at the Harris Bank BMO Center.
Thursday's lineup was filled with players who figure to see top minutes if the NHL lockout continues. Several figured in the victory, rallying after the Admirals took a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes.
Marcus Kruger got Rockford on the board 6:23 into the second period, one-timing a shot with assists by Byron Froese and Joe Lavin. Late in the period and on a 5-on-3 power play, Ben Smith knocked in the equalizer with help from Brandon Pirri and Nick Leddy.
After neither team scored in the third or overtime periods, Leddy, Pirri and Brandon Bollig found the net to win the shootout 3-2. Mac Carruth, playing his first pro action, played the last 35 minutes and the shootout to pick up the win. Carruth was not terribly busy but stopped all seven shots that came his way.
Time Well Spent: Leddy, in particular, was the recipient of special teams minutes galore. He played a big role on both the power-play and penalty-kill units. Leddy was understandably more aggressive in taking the puck to the net, something that needs to continue if he wants to make the most of his time in the AHL.
Leddy was paired with Adam Clendening early in the game. Clendening, who played Wednesday night, was taken to the locker room midway through the second period and did not return. No official word came from the team in regards to a possible injury.
Recapping The Opener: Wednesday, Kyle Beach had Rockford's lone goal, capitalizing on what was basically an empty net early in the third period. Alec Rchards gave up five of the Wolves' six goals before Kent Simpson came on at the midway point of the game.
Along with Beach, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Saad and possibly Rob Flick will be in Rockford sweaters when the AHL season opens but didn't play on Thursday. Defensemen Dylan Olsen and Ryan Stanton also sat out Thursday's win.
Paring Down The Roster: There doesn't seem to be a lot of room on this roster for the few players in camp on a tryout basis. The IceHogs have already released Travis Novak and Jake Trask from their tryout agreements. Chris De Sousa has played in both of Rockford's games, though he still may not have a shot a spot on the team.
Svensden Injured Again: Brandon Svensden, who had shoulder surgery in the summer following his half-season in Rockford, is suffering from a different upper-body injury in camp, according to the Rockford Register Star. He may miss up to two months.
Bollig Active From The Get-Go: Brandon Bollig waited until the third minute of action Thursday before squaring off with Jeff Foss along the boards. Bollig also factored in the final result, sending a laser past Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith's stick side for what would be the game winner.
Satisfied Customers: Regardless of the outcome, IceHogs fans got their money's worth Thursday. Part of that owed to the fact that Rockford pulled out a come-from-behind win. The fans also got Bollig's scrap as well as a tussle featuring winger Wade Brookbank (who, along with defenseman Brett Lebda, wore the "A"'s Thursday).
It also helped that each of the fans got into the BMO Center for free as part of a promotion by the Rockford Register-Star.
Rockford travels to Peoria to wrap up their exhibition schedule Saturday night, then opens the season with back to back games in Chicago October 13 and 14. The home schedule kicks off October 20 and 21 with a pair of games against the Charlotte Checkers.