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IceHogs Fight to Hold Playoff Spot This Weekend

Photo by Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs

IceHogs Fight to Hold Playoff Spot This Weekend

Rockford, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs are battling for their playoff lives in the final weeks of the AHL’s regular season. At this time of the spring, every game is pivotal. This weekend’s assignment is no exception for the IceHogs.

Rockford begins a key home-and-home series with the Milwaukee Admirals in Wisconsin on Friday night. The teams return to the BMO Center Saturday night as the Hogs try to stay ahead of the Chicago Wolves for the fifth and final postseason spot in the Central Division.

The Wolves are just two points behind the IceHogs in the standings. Both teams has six games left on their schedules. While Chicago has a home-and-home with the fourth-place Iowa Wild this weekend, Rockford will be facing an Milwaukee club that is tied with the Texas Stars for the top slot in the division.

“I love it; I think it’s great,” Hogs coach Anders Sorensen said about the matchup with Milwaukee at Rockford’s weekly media session. “I think they’re a good hockey team and we’re ready for the challenge.”

The Admirals have dropped three straight games, including a pair to the Wolves, to begin April. However, Milwaukee has won five of seven meetings with Rockford, including the last three tilts in the season series. Back on February 10 and 11, the Admirals bested the IceHogs 2-1 in a shootout in Milwaukee, then traveled to Rockford and prevailed 4-3 in another shootout.

Despite a 5-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on April 2, the IceHogs have struggled to put up offense over the last six weeks. Rockford was shut out in consecutive losses to the Laval Rocket and Chicago before finding the net against Grand Rapids. Over the last 15 games, the Hogs are 6-8-1 and are scoring just 1.93 times per game.

Several of Milwaukee’s top scorers, including Kiefer Sherwood (22 G, 16 A), Luke Evangelista (9 G, 32 A), Phil Tomasino (12 G, 20 A) and Egor Afanasyev (13 G, 13 A), are currently up with the Admirals NHL club in Nashville. Milwaukee still has rookie goalie Yaroslav Askarov, who has a 5-1 record over Rockford this season to go with a 2.56 goals against average.

For the Hogs, the weekend series will hinge on how top scorers David Gust (26 G, 29 A), Brett Seney (21 G, 29 A), Luke Philp (24 G, 22 A) and Rocco Grimaldi (two goals, six assists in ten games since being obtained in a trade with the San Diego Gulls) prop up the Rockford offense. Seney had a pair of goals in the win over Grand Rapids. Philp, who also found the net on Sunday, has six goals in his last eight games.

Sorensen has been leaning on Arvid Soderblom in net. Since returning from a groin injury back on January 20, Soderblom has started 22 of 29 games for Rockford, including nine of the last thirteen. In two games last weekend, Soderblom allowed just three goals on 79 shots.

“Right now, it’s Arvid and then Jaxson (Stauber)‘s probably the 1B, so to speak and then we’ll go from there,” Sorensen said. “The young guys are going to get the opportunity first.”

Rockford’s playoff fortunes could come down to the final day of the regular season. However, Sorensen still likes the way his team is handling the stretch run.

“I think they’ve got a good demeanor, ” he said of his squad. “They’re in a positive frame of mind and we’re ready to go.”

Both Friday’s game in Milwaukee and Saturday’s puck drop in Rockford are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CDT.


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

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