The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in Rockford were hoping to get off to a hot start behind several NHL players on the roster. Instead, the IceHogs are off to their worst start since becoming the 'Hawks farm club.
Rockford managed to remove the goose egg from the win column, but it took five games to do so. After a weekend that started with back-to-back losses to Peoria and Charlotte, Jimmy Hayes scored his first two goals of the season in the third period as the IceHogs defeated the Checkers Sunday by a score of 5-4.
The IceHogs sport a 1-3-1 record after the win. Their previous worst start for the first five games of a season was in 2009-10, when they went 2-2-1. Rockford has been an AHL affiliate for the 'Hawks since the 2007-08 season.
The offense that beat Charlotte goalie Justin Peters for five goals was in short supply for the first four games. Rockford has lost a 1-0 shootout as well as a pair of 2-1 defeats this past weekend.
Hayes' goals were his first points of the 2012-13 season. Marcus Kruger fed Hayes for his first goal after taking a sweet pass from Martin St. Pierre. Both Hayes' goals broke tie scores Sunday, though Brandon Bollig had the game-winner with assists from Andrew Shaw and Kruger.
Kruger, who is seeing his first action in the AHL, leads the team with a pair of goals and three assists. St. Pierre, who was signed by Rockford to an AHL contract, also has five points on a goal and four assists.
In each of the last two seasons, Rockford has failed to make the playoffs. This has been due in large part to the fact that the IceHogs have found themselves out of the picture with dismal early season performances.
Rockford now trails the Chicago Wolves, who lead the AHL's Midwest Division, by five points. The IceHogs are just a point behind Milwaukee for second in the division, but they are going to have to build on this first victory.
A Tale Of Two Goalies: One goalie has a 2.24 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. The other has a 4.02 goals against average and a .852 save percentage. Guess which one is winless in four games this season?
Wrong. Carter Hutton has played well for most of his four starts but has little to show for it. Hutton stopped 72 of 76 shots Friday and Saturday and lost both games. Backup Alec Richards gave up four goals on 27 shots in his first action of the season and picked up the win behind a steady stream of Rockford offense.
Leddy Shows Flashes of Speed: In Richards' defense, one of those shots caromed off defenseman Nick Leddy, who has three assists on the young season. Leddy shown some impressive bursts of speed taking the puck from his zone and going strong to the net, and if he can be more consistent in rushing the net, it could help turn Rockford's fortunes.
Paradis Penalized: Phillip Paradis, a 6'2", 212-pound forward entering his second full loop with the team, leads Rockford with 23 penalty minutes this season. Much of those were earned this past weekend.
Saturday night, in the third period of the IceHogs' first matchup with Charlotte, Paradis boarded Checkers defenseman Justin Krueger and sent his head hard into the glass. Paradis was given a game misconduct in addition to a five-minute major penalty. Though Krueger returned to action Saturday, he was not in Charlotte's lineup Sunday.
Paradis skated Sunday, picking up four additional minutes in penalties. However, I wouldn't rule out the league handing down a short suspension this week.
Back To Action: The IceHogs remain at home and resume play on Thursday against San Antonio. The game should be a sellout, mainly because a local Rockford television station has purchased all available seats and are giving them away for free.