ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs, like the rest of the American Hockey League, are currently in standby mode thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. That doesn’t mean that the Hogs are in full-on hibernation. It certainly won’t keep me from bringing you up to date.
I’ve been following the travails of the Winnebago County Flying Piglets for several years around the internet. Starting today, I will be providing recaps and roster happenings for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, include any musings I can squeeze out of my head.
Don’t hold your breath for those game recaps. The AHL announced Thursday that the upcoming season will start no earlier than December 4, which almost assures an abbreviated 2020-21 campaign.
As important as it is not to dwell on the past, let’s get you up to speed on how the past ten months went for the piglets. Here’s a quick look at what was the 2019-20 season.
The Hogs entered the season with a slew of new prospects. Despite dropping their first three games, Rockford’s youngsters managed to gel fairly quickly. From November 2 to December 20, the IceHogs went 14-5-0-1.
At that point, call ups (Matthew Highmore, Adam Boqvist, John Quenneville) and injuries (Phillipp Kurashev, Anton Wedin, Alexandre Fortin to name a few) resulted in the team’s fortunes dropping like a puck at faceoff. It happens.
Rockford dropped a 3-2 decision to Cleveland at home on December 21. This was the beginning of a two-month stretch were the IceHogs lost 16 of 19 contests.
Things got a little better by mid-March before the AHL put the kibosh on the season. With 13 games remaining, Rockford was 29-30-2-2. With 62 points, they were just outside of the playoff picture.
In this case, the season ended today, “today” being March 8 when Rockford lost in overtime to the Chicago Wolves. How would the IceHogs have fared if the season had been completed? That’s total speculation. Here’s how I see it going down (had it gone down).
Most of the Central Division had a couple of games in hand on Rockford. Seven of those last 13 games were against Milwaukee (three) and Iowa (four). The Admirals and Wild were the top two teams in the Western Conference and had owned the Hogs all season.
Five of the remaining games were with the two teams battling Rockford for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division, the Wolves and the Texas Stars. I just don’t think the IceHogs could have put together a strong enough kick at the finish line to get into a Calder Cup Playoff series that never happened anyway.
So now…we wait…
…but moves are still out there to be made. The IceHogs have signed several players to AHL contracts. There are still decisions to be made about Chicago’s NHL prospects that will happen in the coming months.
In my next article, we’ll take a look at the way the roster could shape up for Rockford in the next few months.
Follow me on twitter @SinBinIceHogs for my thoughts on the scene in Rockford!