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IceHogs Control Playoff Destiny Entering Weekend

Photo by Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs

IceHogs Control Playoff Destiny Entering Weekend

ROCKFORD, Ill. – As the Rockford IceHogs prepare to close out the regular season, they are in a position to have full control of their playoff destiny. Rockford finishes with three games in three days this weekend. A tough assignment, but one in which the outcomes are clear.

The IceHogs (33-27-5-4, 75 points) open play against the Griffins on Friday in Grand Rapids, move to the BMO Center on Saturday to host the Manitoba Moose, then travel to Milwaukee in the regular season finale against the Admirals on Sunday. If Rockford runs the table, it finishes fourth in the Central Division and would have home-ice advantage in a three-game play-in series with either the Iowa Wild (76 points) or Chicago Wolves (72 points).

If the Hogs can pick up four standings points, they assure themselves of a postseason spot. Anything less than four points will require help from other clubs to solidify Rockford’s bid for the playoffs.

The IceHogs helped themselves in a huge way on Tuesday evening when they dominated the Wolves at the BMO Center. The 6-3 win leaves Rockford three points ahead of Chicago for the fifth and last playoff slot. Iowa’s 4-2 loss to Milwaukee Wednesday opens the door for the Hogs to leapfrog the Wild into fourth place.

If Rockford can replicate Tuesday night’s effort, there is potential for the IceHogs to get a couple of rounds into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Paced by a Luke Philp hat trick, Rockford out-shot the Wolves 39-16 and controlled the pace all night.

“It was probably our best sixty minutes all season,” said head coach Anders Sorensen following the game, “in terms of how we competed and how we’re playing the right way.”

Philp (28 G, 24 A), the team leader in goals, owns the hot hand for the Hogs. He has ten goals in his last eleven games. Philp’s linemates, Rocco Grimaldi (5 G, 9 A in 14 games) and Michal Teply (9 G, 16 A), each added goals for Rockford on Tuesday.

“It’s fun to be out there playing and getting quality chances,” Philp said. “When I got looks, I just tried to bear down and make the most of them.”

Lukas Reichel (17 G, 30 A) came down from the Chicago Blackhawks this week to center Brett Seney (22 G, 30 A) and David Gust (26 G, 31 A). Forwards Buddy Robinson (9 G, 11 A) and Joey Anderson (14 goals in 30 games with the Toronto Marlies this season) are playoff-eligible and should be assigned to Rockford in time to see action for the IceHogs this weekend.

A few weeks ago, Rockford was depending on their top line to provide the bulk of the offense. With so many players returning to the roster, the Hogs should have the tools for three capable scoring lines. There should be depth throughout the lineup for a decent playoff run, provided Rockford takes care of business in its last three games.

“I still think there’s more in this group,” Sorensen said, “and I told them that after as well.”

Grand Rapids has no hope of making the postseason; the IceHogs will look to replicate the 5-1 victory they claimed on April 2 over the Griffins. Manitoba is locked into third, while Milwaukee is still within reach of the division’s top seed. A must-win on the road against the Admirals is something the Hogs should attempt to avoid. All it takes are wins in Grand Rapids Friday and in the home finale on Saturday.

“Games are only going to get tougher and harder,” Philp pointed out. “We have three in three nights to finish the season here, and we’ve got to make sure we’re good for these games and make sure we’re doing everything we can to be ready and get that last playoff spot.”


New Faces

In addition to the players coming down from the NHL to help the Hogs in the final games of the regular season, several recent signings are now with the IceHogs.

Forward Jalen Luypen was assigned to Rockford after his WHL season with the Tri-City Americans concluded. He had 39 points (18 G, 21 A) in 38 games. Rockford also signed forward Gavin Hayes (41 G, 40 A with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL) and goalie Drew Commesso (fresh off of a Frozen Four appearance with Boston University) to professional tryouts.

The action at VanAndel Arena Friday and at the BMO Center Saturday is set to start at 7:00 p.m. CDT. Sunday’s puck drop at UW-Panther Arena is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. CDT.

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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