Chicago Blackhawks Farm Report: IceHogs Hoping to Continue Surging Ways in March

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2013

Brandon Pirri has helped launch Rockford back into the playoff picture in the AHL's Western Conference.
Brandon Pirri has helped launch Rockford back into the playoff picture in the AHL's Western Conference.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in Rockford is probably wishing February was a longer month. The IceHogs had a lot of success in the past 28 days and are starting to close in on a possible playoff spot.

Rockford went 7-4 in February, its best month of the 2012-13 season. That includes the first four months when several members of the Blackhawks were with the team.

The IceHogs have won five-straight games to get themselves over the .500 mark. Rockford is now 27-25-1-1, thanks in part to some big efforts from both of their goalies.

Carter Hutton and Henrik Karlsson have combined for a 2.08 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Hutton pitched a shutout in an impressive 4-0 win in Peoria, Feb. 20, and Karlsson nearly pulled off a blanking of the Chicago Wolves, Sunday, surrendering a late goal in a 2-1 victory.

A month ago, the IceHogs were mired in what would become a six-game losing streak and held a team meeting in an attempt to reverse their fortunes. Heading into this weekend's play, Rockford has won seven of its last nine and has the eighth team in the Western Conference in sight.

This is an IceHogs team that has not advanced to the postseason in either of the last two seasons. Guys like Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith and Kyle Beach are in the middle of their third season with the team and should be hungry for any kind of playoff success.

Pirri, who shares the points lead in Rockford with Martin St. Pierre with 41, has a six-game points streak going into Friday's game with the Rivermen. Jeremy Morin, another IceHogs forward that is in town for his third pro season, also has a six-game points streak.

Morin had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in February. Jimmy Hayes had six goals and 10 points in the month to continue the tear he's been on. Ben Smith returned from a hand injury Friday night in a 4-3 win over Midwest Division leader Grand Rapids at the BMO Center.

Beach held down Smith's role on the power play, getting to the crease and matching his season-best month with seven points. Terry Broadhurst had a slow January after being recalled from Toledo of the ECHL but came back with three goals and five assists in his last nine games.

The IceHogs have been a streaky bunch all season but have to stay on a roll if they want to break their playoff drought. A win over Peoria Friday and another Saturday over the visiting Milwaukee Admirals would get the month off to a great start with two division opponents in town.

March also holds a pair of back-to-back games in Oklahoma City, who are a point ahead of the IceHogs in the current standings. They also have a home and home against the Wolves as well as a road weekend up in Abbotsford March 22 and 23.

Rockford has just 22 games in the 2012-13 schedule remaining to vault them from 12th place in the conference with 56 points to the eighth seed, currently held by Chicago with 59 points. Abbotsford and Toronto are just above the Wolves with 60 points apiece, so another hot month could send Rockford up the conference ladder in a hurry.