Rockford Newspaper -
ICEHOGS' FIRST HALF AN 'UP AND DOWN RIDE
SCOTT MORGAN | RRSTAR.COM
By Reed Schreck-RRSTAR.COM
Jan 15, 2009
ROCKFORD — The Rockford IceHogs finished the first half of their second American Hockey League season with a 21-15-0-4 record.
You will not see them puffing out their chests about it.
“We have lots of room to improve,” said leading goal-scorer Pascal Pelletier before Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to San Antonio. “But I think we’re going the right way.”
That’s because the IceHogs were on a 5-0-0-1 streak before dropping their last outing. The second half begins Friday night at home against Chicago.
When discussing the first 40 games, head coach Bill Peters’ biggest smile came when he said, “It’s a real positive we’ve found our identity as far as our work ethic goes.
“The thing that I’m most pleased about is our work ethic and our commitment to playing hard away from the puck.”
It’s only fitting Rockford was on a roll recently because the first half was one of streaks all along.
“It’s been an up and down ride,” Pelletier said. “We started really strong, had a big collapse where we struggled for seven or eight games, then went back to win one, lose one. Now, we’re on a strong pace. We have to try to stay competitive every night.”
Said center Evan Brophey: “Every point starts to count toward the playoffs. We can’t let any points slip.”
Here’s how Peters would grade his team:
Rockford ranks fourth in the Western Conference and leads its division with 125 goals.
“Very good numbers, very impressive,” coach Bill Peters said. “We’ve been fine, and scored more than we thought we would with the group we have.”
Pascal Pelletier (19), Jack Skille (15) and Rob Klinkhammer (10) are double-figure scorers. Pelletier (37), Skille (34), Petri Kontiola (33) and Tim Brent (30) lead in total points.
Defense: C overall, B+ recently
“We were very strong early in the year, then fell off a little bit,” Peters said. “It seems like it comes in bunches, a lot like our hockey team. I’d like to see the positive streaks continue and would like to limit the negatives and cut them off.”
Jimmy Sharrow is plus-11 in 15 Rockford games and plus-15 overall, and Danny Groulx is plus-9.
Tim Hambly, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Andrew Archer, Jordan Hendry and Mike Brennan all have played at least 27 games as blue-liners.
Rockford ranks 15th overall by allowing 2.88 goals per game.
Right now, it’s Corey Crawford leading the way. But games played between Crawford (21) and Antti Niemi (22) are nearly identical.
Crawford is 12-6-2, and Niemi 9-9-2.
“It’s been good overall,” Peters said. “The only thing you’re looking at there is a little bit of inconsistency. We had both hot at the same time and both cooled off at the same time. What we needed to have happen was for one of them to stay hot to carry the load.
“We have that now with Craw. We know Antti is working hard, and when he gets the opportunity to get back between the pipes, he’ll respond and be strong also.”
Power play: A first 20 games, C second 20 games
“We did a good job on the power play earlier in the year, then we tapered off,” Peters said. “We’ve got to find a way to pick it back up and be in the top seven in the league.”
Rockford stands 14th overall at 17.1 percent.
Penalty kill: B early on, D lately
“We’re trying to find the middle ground and get into the C/B- area,” Peters said.
Rockford is dead last at 78.9 percent, including an awful 71.9 on the road (25 of 89).
Peters took the political route on this topic.
“I’d call it incomplete,” he said. “There’s no sense in giving grades at this stage of the game.”