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 Rockford IceHogs

17th Anniversary of Rockford's Colonial Cup Championship

May 24, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Rockford IceHogs News Release


On this date 17 years ago, the Rockford IceHogs captured the team's first and only league championship with a Game 7 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings in the United Hockey League's Colonial Cup Finals. Nearing the end of the 25th season of IceHogs hockey, we stroll back through that celebrated day with a rewind of Rockford's cup-clinching win and the team's path to history.

After failing to close out the series and ending up on the wrong end of a 6-1 final two days prior in Kalamazoo, the IceHogs returned back home to the Stateline for the decisive Game 7. The anticipation in the city built an enormous crowd of 6,236 for the final game of the series.

Unlike Game 6, Game 7 came down to the wire. With 1:33 left in regulation, Nicolas Corbeil cut to the slot and beat Wings rookie goalie Ryan Nie on the blocker side to give the Hogs a 3-1 lead and effectively cement the city's first pro hockey title.

Corbeil was one of many Hogs to score crucial goals in the playoffs that season. He finished with seven points (3G, 4A) in the Finals and 20 points (9G, 11A) in 17 playoff games.

Prior to Corbeil's insurance goal, it was winger Jason Notermann who scored what would become the eventual game-winner at the 6:11 mark of the second period.

Kevin Ulanski led off the scoring for the game just 2:47 into the first frame on an unassisted shorthanded goal. Ulanski led the team 21 points (8G, 13A) in the playoffs, including a team-best four goals in the Finals, and was named MVP for the postseason.

"It was everybody chipping in," said Ulanski. "You look back at the point totals and it wasn't one guy running away with everything."

The 2006-07 group was a deep one by all accounts. Six players had multiple goals in the final series, and 15 Hogs found the back of the net in total against Kalamazoo. Game 7 in Rockford closed out Head Coach Steve Martinson's third season with the team, and in the build-up the club looked poised to erase the frustrations of second-round exits in each of the two previous seasons.

2006-07 IceHogs Colonial Cup Finals Stats

Player GP G A PTS

Matt Gens 7 1 7 8

Kevin Ulanski 7 4 3 7

Chaz Johnson 7 3 4 7

Nicolas Corbeil 7 3 4 7

Bruce Watson 7 3 2 5

Nathan Lutz 7 1 3 4

Preston Mizzi 7 1 2 3

Dan Boeser 7 1 2 3

Benoit Doucet 7 1 2 3

Kaleb Betts 6 2 1 3

Jason Notermann 7 2 1 3

Bryce Cockburn 7 1 2 3

Luke Fritshaw 7 0 2 2

Jason Ralph 4 1 1 2

Corey Hessler 7 1 1 2

Mike Letizia 6 1 0 1

Paul Brown 4 0 0 0

Jesse Bennefield 1 0 0 0

Goaltender W L GAA SV%

Frederic Cloutier 4 3 2.56 .910

Jake Moreland 0 0 0.00 .000

"I like a lot of wolves instead of one lion," explained Martinson. "And if you look at the success with that team, it wasn't really because we had just one fabulous player. We just had a lot of guys and a lot of depth."

Up 3-1, the chorus of cheers swelled into a frenzy with less than a minute remaining in the game, Chaz Johnson took a few moments after an icing call to stand at center ice and offer an impromptu dance performance to the IceHogs faithful.

"I was like, man, this game's over," laughed Johnson, thinking back. "So let me give the crowd a little dance, a little celebration, 'cause I'm pretty sure everyone in the crowd were probably on pins and needles. So I was just having fun with it."

Johnson played some of his best hockey in the playoffs and racked up seven points (3G, 4A) in seven Finals appearances.

The remaining seconds dwindled as Kalamazoo searched for offense in vain. Delerium descended on the then-Rockford MetroCentre in the final seconds as the capacity crowd finally laid their eyes on a winner.

"Stand proud, Rockford. You have a hockey champion!" was the call that broadcaster Mike Peck delivered on air as the clock hit zero. The Rockford citizens inside the venue needed no instructions; they had been standing for the final five minutes of regulation.

"It was packed, it was loud, that crowd stayed for, I don't know, a half hour or 45 minutes after that game," remembered forward Jason Ralph. "Still celebrating and you know again you can't replace that. Nothing I've done in life has ever replaced that feeling since that day." Ralph, in his third year with the team, tabbed five points (1G, 4A) in nine playoffs games during the run to the championship.

IceHogs players mobbed each other in the Rockford zone in the moments after the final horn. Defenseman Luke Fritshaw was the first to hug goaltender Frederic Cloutier. Cloutier had played in all seven Finals games while recording a .910 save percentage in that stretch. He went 12-5 in the playoffs with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

Johnson and Corbeil jumped into each other's arms with such ferocity that they both tumbled down to the ice while the celebration continued around them.

"I could have spent another hour out there," said Ralph. "But then I didn't want to miss all the fun that was going on in the locker room. I really did soak it up. It really did mean a lot to me and still does. It's a chance in a lifetime to win a championship, but especially in pro sports."

2006-07 IceHogs Colonial Cup Playoff Stats

Player GP G A PTS

Kevin Ulanski 17 8 13 21

Preston Mizzi 17 9 11 20

Nicolas Corbeil 17 9 11 20

Chaz Johnson 17 6 9 15

Matt Gens 17 2 11 13

Dan Boeser 17 2 10 12

Nathan Lutz 17 3 8 11

Benoit Doucet 15 3 6 9

Bruce Watson 12 5 3 8

Kaleb Betts 14 4 4 8

Jason Notermann 16 5 2 7

Bryce Cockburn 17 1 5 6

Luke Fritshaw 17 1 4 5

Jason Ralph 9 1 4 5

Corey Hessler 17 2 1 3

Paul Brown 14 1 1 2

Jesse Bennefield 9 1 1 2

Mike Letizia 13 1 0 1

Goaltender W L GAA SV%

Frederic Cloutier 12 5 2.31 .919

Jake Moreland 0 0 5.54 .833

"We had great chemistry," said Ralph. "All the cheesy, corny lines that you would hear, you know? But I mean, to win a championship, you have to believe in each other and have each other's back. And that's the type of team that Marty (Steve Martinson) is famous for creating."

The 2006-07 IceHogs were a physically imposing team by order of Martinson. Rockford's bench boss was well known for his rough and tumble squads, and it worked to great success for him. By the time Rockford's championship season rolled around, Martinson had already won five league titles with highly physical groups in the WCHL. His 2006-07 IceHogs team followed a similar blueprint and finished third in league scoring (3.54 goals per game) and first in penalty minutes (28.05 per game).

"We were so fully loaded and I was only in my second year," reflected Johnson. "We just had so much talent, but we had so much toughness too."

After knocking off the Quad City Mallards the opening round four games to one, the Hogs hit their first bump in the 2007 Colonial Cup Playoffs when they were shut out 3-0 in Game 1 of Round 2 against the Fort Wayne Komets. Injuries briefly slowed Rockford's advance through the postseason, bringing up painful reminders of shortcomings from the year before.

"Guys are playing with separated shoulders and getting a ton of injections," said Martinson. "And that's just the way it is sometimes in the playoffs. Staying healthy- that's the biggest key in the playoffs because that's what happened the year before. We had so many guys hurt in that series against Fort Wayne that we just we just ran out of steam [in Game 1]."

The loss proved to be just a hiccup, and the IceHogs went on to win four straight against the Komets and win the series four games to one. Notermann also scored the game winning goal in Rockford's series clinching victory in Game 5 in Fort Wayne, a 5-4 Hogs win, propelling into the Finals.

One of the constants that carried Rockford through the first two rounds and remained true in the Finals was the team's strength on home ice.

"We didn't lose a game at home in the playoffs," said Johnson. "That was our motto: we're not losing to nobody at home."

That motto rang true throughout the Colonial Cup Finals as the home team won each of the first six games of the series in the lead-up to Game 7.

"I mean, you go into it nervous right?" said Ralph. "It's all or nothing. You got one game, but I think that we were confident that it was in our rink. We knew it was going to be a big crowd. Obviously they were going to be behind us. I think we went into that game going, 'this is ours'."

That Game 7 was significant for more than just a Colonial Cup. Win or lose, it would be the last game the IceHogs played in the UHL, and subsequently, the final ever game for the UHL, as the league would cease operations following the season.

On Mar. 19 of that season, just two months prior, AHL CEO Dave Andrews and Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon made the announcement at a press conference in Rockford that the inactive AHL franchise in Cincinnati would be relocating to the Stateline. Starting in 2007-08, the IceHogs would be playing as an AHL team, and that promise of change loomed over players and hockey staff through the last few weeks of the season.

"The other thing is everybody was leaving," said Martinson. "So it wasn't one of those things where, you can get them next year. It was this year or not. So, it was great that everybody pulled together and I thought the town pulled together."

The next 17 seasons in the AHL have been full of progress and new milestones. Rockford has been affiliated with the Blackhawks since the team jumped to the AHL in 2007-08, and hundreds of players have made their way up to the NHL from Rockford during the relationship. Through 25 years of IceHogs hockey, the glimmer of the team's 2007 Colonial Cup Championship is still a significant part of the club's lore. Now, the IceHogs look ahead to the next 25 years and the pursuit of a Calder Cup Championship.


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