Rockford, Ill.-The Rockford IceHogs picked up a pair of wins over the weekend, knocking off a pair of tough Central Division rivals in the process. As tough as wins over Texas and Iowa were for the Hogs, the action this week looks to be more of the same as Rockford attempts to solidify its postseason chances.
The IceHogs (25-17-4-4) are currently in fourth place in the Central Division with 58 points. The IceHogs trail Milwaukee and Texas, who share the Division lead, by six points. Manitoba is just in front of Rockford with 60 points.
The Hogs managed to open up a bit of space between themselves and fifth-place Iowa on Sunday afternoon. Rockford, led by Dylan Sikura‘s hat trick, defeated the Wild 5-3 in Des Moines. The win was the IceHogs third straight over Iowa, giving Rockford its fourth win in ten meetings with the Wild. As a result, the IceHogs had a five-point cushion on Iowa entering play this week.
Rockford concludes its season series with the Wild with this weekend’s home-and-home. The teams begin at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night, with the scene shifting back to the BMO Center Saturday night.
Before undertaking the weekend with the Wild, however, Rockford still needs to hit the ice with the division-leading Stars for the second time in six days. On Friday night, the Hogs got an outstanding performance from goalie Dylan Wells Friday night at the BMO Center. Wells kept the IceHogs in contention, stopping 37 Texas shots in regulation. This allowed Rockford to post a big 3-2 overtime victory.
Alex Vlasic scored the game-winner 45 seconds into the extra session. The rookie defenseman used a poke check to swipe the puck from Texas forward Riley Barber, then sprung Lukas Reichel on a rush up the ice with a nice pass. Vlasic skated hard into the Stars zone and tapped in Reichel’s return pass at the left post to finish off Texas.
WHAT. A. 📸 FINISH. pic.twitter.com/oi08lrs2Qu
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) February 18, 2023
The IceHogs are 5-2 against the Stars this season entering the final matchup of the regular season. Rockford has not lost to Texas at the BMO Center in three previous meetings.
This week’s action is a key stretch for the Hogs. They can edge themselves closer to the top of the standings with less than two months left on the schedule, while creating additional separation from the Wild.
February comes to an end with some tough games, but the going only get tougher in March. The IceHogs begin the month with a five-game road trip. It’s best for Rockford to make hay to close February as the playoff push begins in earnest.
Defenseman Jakub Galvas (2 G, 22 A) was knocked to the ice by Iowa’s Brandon Baddock early in the first period of Sunday afternoon’s contest. He left the game shortly thereafter and did not return. Rockford coach Anders Sorensen told Hogs broadcaster Mike Folta in Sunday’s post-game interview that Galvas would be evaluated upon returning to Rockford.
Missing Galvas and Issak Phillips, who was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks last week, for an extended period puts a bit more pressure on Vlasic (2 G, 9 A) and Alec Regula (5 G, 14 A) to hold down the blueline.
Rookie Louis Crevier (0 G, 4 A) broke an 18-game point drought with an assist on Wednesday in a loss to Grand Rapids and may see an increase of minutes. Cliff Watson, who last played for Rockford on January 20, and Cooper Zech, whose only start this month came last Wednesday, may also need to draw into the lineup this week.
The puck drop for Wednesday and Saturday’s games at the BMO Center, as well as Friday’s game in Des Moines, is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.
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