The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in Rockford has put together an impressive steak over the past two weeks of play. As a result, the IceHogs capped a big weekend in Charlotte by taking over first place in the AHL's Midwest Division.
Rockford took three of four games this past week and improved their season mark to 12-9-0-1, catapulting the IceHogs to a one-point advantage in the division over Grand Rapids. With 25 points, Rockford now sits in the third sport in the Western Conference.
The IceHogs are right behind Checkers, whom they swept in a back-to-back in Charlotte Saturday and Sunday. Rockford rallied Saturday, with five unanswered goals for a 5-2 win—after trailing 2-0 after the first period. Sunday saw the IceHogs take a 2-0 lead and hold on to claim the contest 4-1.
Rockford also earned its first victory of the season over the Chicago Wolves, rallying from a two-goal deficit to post a 4-2 win in Chicago.The IceHogs had been dominated by their in-state rivals in the last two meetings between the teams.
The only blemish during the big week was a home loss to Texas on November 27. Rockford ran out to a 3-0 advantage in the first five minutes, only to see the Stars prevail 5-4. Still, responding with three straight road wins washes away most of the bad taste of letting one slip away at home.
Hutton Back In Goal
Carter Hutton had been on the bench for three IceHogs wins last week in lieu of Alec Richards, who gave up five goals on 19 Texas shots Tuesday. In his first action since being pulled from net November 21 against Peoria, Hutton was impressive to say the least.
Wednesday in Chicago and again Saturday in Charlotte, Hutton kept his team in the hunt until the IceHogs could get their offensive game rolling. In the three wins, he stopped 94 of 99 shots.
Teams have been attacking Hutton high on the glove side with much success. Hopefully his recent results signal some adjustments paying off for Hutton.
Shaw Suspended Again
Missing Saturday's game was Andrew Shaw, who was serving a one-game suspension for boarding Chicago's Brett Sterling Wednesday.
Shaw committed the infraction midway through the contest, after which he skated to the IceHogs' bench while the Wolves had possession on the delayed penalty. While on the bench, he picked up a chair and looked to be ready to toss it on the ice before someone on Rockford's staff stopped him.
Shaw is currently on a five-game point streak, during which he has earned four of his five goals this season. However, this was his second suspension of the 2012-13 campaign. Shaw needs to get his emotions in check, as he is quickly becoming a marked man in the eyes of officials.
St. Pierre Providing Scoring Punch
The IceHogs signed AHL veteran Martin St. Pierre this past summer to provide offense. In his second stint with Rockford, the compact center has done just that, leading the IceHogs in scoring.
The captain had four goals in Rockford's last three games, to give him eight on the season to go with 11 assists. Saturday saw St. Pierre notch a pair of goals as well as a rare bout with Charlotte's Jerome Samson.
Neither player is known for his fists. It was Samson's third fight in over 300 AHL games and the first dropping of the gloves by St. Pierre in over five years.
Clendening, Not Leddy, Leading The Way
Nick Leddy has to start making a difference from the blue line. For a player with almost two seasons of NHL experience and 37 points for the Blackhawks last season, he's been pretty quiet.
Adam Clendening, who has been paired with Leddy recently, is tied for second on the team with 16 points. He has had three goals and nine helpers in his last eight games. By way of comparison, Leddy had a single goal and six assists this season in 18 games.
Leddy is even with Shawn Lalonde (two goals, five assists) for defensive scoring honors, even though Lalonde has played in three fewer games. Leddy shows flashes of dominance once or twice a game, but it's a bit concerning that he hasn't flexed much offensive muscle in the first two months.