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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

AHL Central Division Round 1 Preview: Iowa Wild vs. Rockford IceHogs

AHL Central Division Round 1 Preview: Iowa Wild vs. Rockford IceHogs

Rockford, Ill.-The Rockford IceHogs and Iowa Wild have been involved in many tight games this season. Starting Wednesday night, the Central Division rivals will lock horns to decide who moves into the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Central Division play-in series is a best-of-three affair. Both the IceHogs and Wild needed to post road wins in their regular-season finales on Sunday to advance. Rockford bested second-place Milwaukee, while Iowa knocked off first-place Texas. Both teams finished in a tie for fourth; the Wild are the higher seed by way of more regulation wins.

The IceHogs came out firing this season and challenged for the division lead for most of the season’s first three months. The offensive firepower took a hit with roster shakeups in January when Rockford lost seven straight games. The Hogs struggled to play .500 hockey from there, adjusting to a trade-deadline roster shuffle. They do come in with as deep a roster as they’ve had all season.

Rocco Grimaldi (33 G, 40 A) came aboard at the trade deadline from San Diego and has contributed six goals and 11 helpers in 16 games with Rockford. David Gust (26 G, 33 A), Brett Seney (23 G, 31 A), and Luke Philp (29 G, 24 A) have been the heart of the Hogs’ offense all season.

Recently back with the Hogs is Lukas Reichel (20 G, 31 A), who was an American Hockey League All-Star along with Seney and Gust. The x-factor may be in the form of Joey Anderson, who was assigned to Rockford this past weekend by the Blackhawks. Anderson had 27 points (14 G, 13 A) in 30 games with the Toronto Marlies earlier this season and was paired with Grimaldi and Reichel to much success in Rockford’s final three games.

Iowa put together a league-high 14-point streak in January and February. From December 28 to February 4, the Wild went 11-1-3-2, then lost seven straight. Iowa recovered to finish 12-6-1-1 in its last 20 games.

The Wild are paced by veteran center Nic Petan, who set career-highs in goals (23) and points (62) in 53 games for Iowa. Rookie Sammy Walker (27 G, 21 A) led Iowa in goals, while Adam Beckman added 24 goals in 53 games. Marco Rossi (16 G, 35 A) and Steven Fogarty (19 G, 30 A) are also big point producers for the Wild.

The season series between these two teams was marked by tightly-contested games, most of which required extra skating to decide a victor. Rockford coach Anders Sorensen and Wild coach Tim Army are readying their respective clubs for a tough series. Here’s the tale of the tape entering the first game in Rockford Wednesday night.

Final Regular Season Records

Iowa: 34-27-6-5, 79 points

Rockford: 35-28-5-4, 79 points

Series Schedule

Game 1: Iowa at ROCKFORD, Wednesday, April 19, 7:00 p.m. CDT

Game 2: Rockford @ IOWA, Friday, April 21, 7:00 p.m. CDT

Game 3 (If necessary): Rockford at IOWA, Sunday, April 23, 3:00 p.m. CDT 

Season Series Recap

The Wild hold a 7-3-1-1 advantage in twelve matchups this season against Rockford. Iowa is 4-0-1-1 in Rockford, while the teams split six games in Des Moines. Seven of the twelve games required overtime or a shootout to decide the winner.

The IceHogs won four of the last five meetings, with the Wild shutting out Rockford 2-0 at the BMO Center in the previous tilt between the teams on February 25.

  • Rossi leads Iowa with 14 points (3 G, 11 A) in eleven games against Rockford this season. Fogarty paces the Wild with seven goals and also has five helpers in his ten games against the IceHogs. Petan (3 G, 7 A) has a pair of game-winners over Rockford.
  • Philp (4 G, 3 A), Gust (3 G, 4 A), and Jakub Galvas (1 G, 6 A) each have seven points against the Wild this season.
  • IceHogs goalie Arvid Soderblom has been up and down this season but has raised his game against Iowa this season. In five starts, Soderblom is 4-0-1 with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. His best outing came on February 24, a 29-save performance in Rockford’s 3-1 win.
  • Jesper Wallstedt and Zane McIntyre have alternated starts all season. Each has been solid against the Hogs. Wallstedt is 4-2-1 with a 2.35 GAA and a .922 save percentage. McIntyre is 3-1-0-1 with a 2.60 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

How Iowa Wins

Iowa breaks up rushes in neutral ice and out-muscle the Hogs in the corners. The Wild strike early and keep the score down, waiting for an over-eager Rockford club to make mistakes.

How Rockford Wins

Soderblom takes things up a notch in goal, similarly denying Wild shooters to his regular-season meetings with Iowa. Taking advantage of several late additions to the roster, the Rockford offense of the first three months resurfaces. The IceHogs control the tempo at both ends and overwhelm the Wild.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Jon Fromi covers the Rockford IceHogs for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHIceHogs.

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